Nothing against chocolate, roses and romantic love, but this Valentine’s Day I propose that we focus on the pleasures of creativity and the tender caring for members in our community who are vulnerable, weak or stressed.
Today, I am celebrating the volunteers, patients and caregivers who express extraordinary love. This Valentine’s Day, and every day of the year, volunteers with open hearts are meeting patients and families where they are, expressing love by bringing an attentive presence to challenging times.
A team of Art from the Heart volunteers visits the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital every day, inviting creativity to bloom through painting, writing poems, stories and songs, dancing and moving with kids, families and caregivers. Imagination and inspiration are rekindling love of life each day (forget Cupid’s arrows, all we need are paintbrushes!)
Art activates whole bodies and minds, developing a sense of belonging and interconnection. Many a valentine has been created and gifted these last few weeks by Art from the Heart artists.
What is good for an individual ripples out to the whole family – both the biological and the health care giving family. The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, published in the American Journal of Public Health from February 2010 reports many significant findings on the efficacy of art on health. For instance, women with cancer “who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment.” Also, caregivers who made art “reported significantly reduced stress, decreased anxiety, and increased positive emotions” and “increases in positive communications with cancer patients and health care providers.”
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So instead of the pre-boxed sentiments, I invite us to dedicate this Valentine’s Day to the compassionate and creative caring of volunteers, patients, families and caregivers who work in service to physical, mental and social well-being through creativity and art.
When Art from the Heart volunteers visit, their heartfelt, compassionate and caring presence embodies those three little words and eight little letters: I Love You.
Art from the Heart is a program of Burlington City Arts in collaboration with The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital devoted to creating a wholehearted and wholly healthy culture. Started in 1994 by Abby Rose and facilitated by Burlington City Arts since 1997. Last year Art from the Heart engaged over 1400 patients and caregivers in art making. For more information on Art from the Heart please visit http://www.burlingtoncityarts.org/art-heart
Rebecca Schwarz is the Coordinator of Art from the Heart, a program of Burlington City Arts at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.