I had the opportunity to do another practice run of my origami workshop this week with another group of visitors to the studio, and it went very smoothly this time! Having examples of what the folded pieces look like at each step in addition to demonstrating how it’s done was more helpful, and freed me up a little bit to help people as they were working. There are a few upcoming spring activities in areas of the hospital where I’d hoped to do this, but I’m sure we will be able to figure something out with scheduling. Worst case scenario, I might have to come in on an odd day and try it then. In other good news, we had an unusually high number of people visit the studio this week- 10 on thursday afternoon (compared to 4 or 5 normally) and 6 today. Hopefully that trend continues!
Mid-semester review: I have now been at Dana-Farber for about 4 months.
In that time, I’ve become pretty comfortable working in the hospital setting and interacting with new patients. One of my biggest fears going into Dana-Farber was finding out that I wouldn’t be well suited to do this kind of work, so I’m very relieved this has been a good fit. I’ve always said that I wanted to help others find a voice through artwork the same way I found mine while I was recovering from my brain injury. I talk about that aspiration all the time, and at this point I’ve been talking about it for years now. However, talking about it is one thing, and then actually seeing it through in reality is another. This year, between my work on Still Running: An Art Marathon for Boston (www.bostonartsmarathon.com for more info) and being at Dana-Farber now, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) how to help people communicate visually through drawing and painting. Not everyone does this by literally throwing themselves into that conduit position without any real knowledge of how to teach people how to make things or facilitate serious, meditative dialogue about topics like the Boston Marathon bombing or a cancer diagnosis- but everyone’s got to start somewhere. Thankfully in my case learning by doing seems to be working out pretty well, and I feel really good about having the learned the majority of what I now know about these things rom real life interactions instead of learning from a class or textbook.
Now that I’m more comfortable working with patients, I’ve begun taking steps to lead fine arts and crafts (side note: as much as I dislike “crafts” I will say they do have an incredible cathartic quality for some people, and for that reason, the crafting shall continue) outside the creative arts studio and in other areas of the hospital. Lately the attendance in the studio has been down, which is in part due to its obscure location and people not knowing about it- so I want to bring the resources the studio has to offer into more highly trafficked areas of the hospital. Hopefully, this will not only generate interest and awareness of Dana-Farber’s Arts programming to a larger audience, but also make the studio’s resources more easily accessible to patients and others who might not be able to come down to us. Yesterday I did a practice run of an origami box making workshop I hope to bring up to the cafeteria with a few visitors in the studio. It went pretty well, the kids participating actually picked it up much easier than any of the adults I was working with, so I think I’ll need to work out some alternative methods of explanation before I work with a larger number of people. But overall, I think this activity will be fun for people and I hope to have it ready to go with the space booked in the next week or so!
After I’ve done that, I plan to continue working on some entry-level fine arts workshops. The craftier activities like this are more popular with the patients, so ultimately I think I’m probably going to be spending more time in that area, but I still would like to make the option for a more traditional drawing or painting workshop available. At this point that’s probably a little farther off in the future (maybe over the summer?), but hopefully after doing the craft workshops I’ll have a better sense of how I might set up a drawing workshop to be more inviting and less intimidating.
I have continued to work on the cardboard rabbit for the door, but thankfully it still isn’t done because we had people to work with this week! In addition to the creative arts studio, Dana-Farber also offers music therapy programming which attracts lots of people to the center for integrated therapies. This week was drum circle week, a very popular attraction, so thankfully many folks were interested in joining us in the studio once the drum circle adjourned. I also got a chance to develop my plans for a drawing workshop/demo. Since attendance has been a little down lately, my supervisor is very supportive of the idea of me starting a series of drawing/craft demos in other areas of the hospital so people can see what the creative arts studio has to offer, which will hopefully motivate them to come down and join us sometime. I will be pitching my plan to her next week, tentatively hoping to test out the first demo in one of the diffusion areas the week following that. Stay tuned!
This week was pretty quiet; I think the snow probably kept a lot of people from coming in to their appointments. Anyway, I wasn’t totally alone. I worked with only one patient on Thursday and Friday and it was good to get to know them a little better. We didn’t do any “fine art” this week; we just did some knitting instead. I actually did not know how to knit, so it was definitely interesting to learn that together. When they left, I used the rest of my time to organize the studio and make more Creative Arts info cards to hard out to the different departments upstairs. On Friday I did a watercolor demo…not my forte…
Prompt: How does your internship relate to your coursework and future aspirations? Identify your goals relating to your placement.
As a studio art major, I feel as though any experience in working directly with other people/involving the public in the arts is relevant to my eventual goals. Although I don’t know exactly what they are, I know I’d like to be involved in facilitating community or educational involvement in the arts in the context of responding to real issues facing the given group of people involved. Professionally, I could see myself going into art therapy or maybe even art education (later in life), so having the opportunity to work with patients in an educational and clinical setting at Dana-Farber continues to give me clarity as to what direction might be the best fit for me.
My goals for this placement first off were just to take in the experience of functioning in this kind of setting and evaluate whether or not working with adult cancer patients was something I feel comfortable doing. In high school I interned for a local nonprofit that was a retreat center for children with cancer, and even though I mostly just worked in the office, the presence of serious illness changed the dynamic of everything we were doing. On the one hand, it was great to be a part of an organization making a truly meaningful difference in these families’ lives, but on the other hand it was very difficult trying to know how to respond to bad news in the most appropriate but sincere way. So far in my time at Dana-Farber, I’ve found that while trying to respond remains difficult sometimes, for the most part the positive outlook of the patients I’ve been working with has been incredibly inspiring.
Long term, I’d like to contribute to the educational resources Dana-Farber has to offer. Right now, there’s a bulletin board that serves as a “craft wall” that has examples of different projects available for patients to try out. There is a corresponding binder that has instructions for each craft; old volunteers generated most of the lessons in the binder. There is a second bulletin board that has an assortment of random drawings and paintings done by past volunteers and patients that is most likely work that was left behind…nothing special. I would like to change that. While I do work individually with some patients on fine art projects, the majority of the activity in the creative arts studio is focused on crafts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing- crafts are great for a lot of people- I just want the fine arts to be better represented in the studio than it is now and maybe that will encourage more people to try that instead.
I plan on going about this by starting a binder of my own, except full of technical drawing, perceptual drawing, painting, and mixed media techniques that can be applied to a wide variety of subject matter. I envision it like a simplified version of some of the drawing exercises from foundation drawing and painting. Variation of line, mark, proportion, plum lines, color mixing, color blocking, direct painting- I would like to leave them with a set of skills that will allow patients and future volunteers to go forth and feel confident enough to construct their own imagery instead of pulling it out of a national geographic magazine from 1988 or settling on a craft. I plan on including step-by-step visual examples to accompany the written prompts. I hope to have my first drawing activity written up and hopefully implemented by the end of March.
Of course, I will have to see how it all goes. Ultimately, my responsibility above all is to cater to the interests of the patients visiting the studio, so hopefully I will have some takers but there are no guarantees. However, if my examples are “good” or enticing enough, I think people will at least give it a try. I’ve noticed that the crafts with the most visually appealing examples are the most popular, however kitschy they are. That was my last negative comment about crafts.
I’ve found my experience as a whole so far has been very positive; it’s actually become my favorite place to be. I genuinely enjoy working with people who share my interests in visual arts and healing, and it’s been truly inspiring to be around so much positivity in spite of serious circumstances. I’m motivated to contribute quality educational fine arts programming to the studio and I hope it will be a helpful and intriguing resource for patients and future volunteers interested in fine art.
This week, not surprisingly, we made Valentines Day cards in the studio. Although I didn’t think this would be a popular activity (I personally hate Valentines Day…) we had a lot of people drop by. Despite my own negative attitude toward the holiday, I actually found it very refreshing to be around people working hard to make something nice, handmade, and from the heart for their significant other. I made this cut-paper example valentine for my dog.
Over the holidays I started working as a studio arts instructor at The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Though I’ve only committed to a spring schedule so far, I hope to keep this commitment long term. My goal is to gain experience and insight into the roles visual arts can play in a clinical setting, academically speaking. I also just like meeting new people and hearing their stories. And getting to paint in a “judgment free zone”. In the short time I’ve already been here, this is already my favorite job I’ve ever had.
So far I’ve mostly just been assisting patients and visitors individually with projects they have started either from earlier in the week or from a previous visit. The projects are as different as the people themselves, so I’ll be sure to post pictures of things when they’re all done (and if they let me)!
Our more structured activity this week was “appreciation journals” (pictured below). Patients had the option to dress them up or leave the outside plain, but the idea was to fill each page of the journal with something they appreciate. Some people took them away to do a page per day and others sat down and filled the whole thing. The one pictured below was made by a patient for his wife as a Valentines Day present, with one thing he appreciates about her on every page. If that’s not what “Love is” than I don’t know. Sorry I’m not sorry for the pun.
Please feel free to look at my work and leave me a comment!
Thanks for looking!