Art is Good Medicine

Art supplies used in the workshops.

An Art is Good Medicine workshop will be held tonight at 6:30 located at Emerge Art Gallery and will be open to anyone who has been affected by cancer, namely patients and survivors, their families and caregivers, and those who have lost a loved one to cancer.

Programs Director at Emerge Art Gallery, Paula Rountree, said that the Art is Good Medicine program was started by Emerge. Instructors would go in to the Children’s Hospital and North Tower at Vidant and do free activities with children and adults who were stuck in the hospital for long periods of time.

“It started as a purpose of distraction so they are not just focused on what they are currently sitting in or experiencing, but it’s an outsource of some sort of way,” Rountree said.

The program has now morphed into a multi-faceted entity with class both at the hospital and at Emerge. Rountree said the workshops are meant to provide an outlet to cancer survivors, caregivers and family members after treatment has ended.

“At one point we decided that we’re touching on the people at the hospital, but what about when they’re no longer coming to the hospital they still need that sort of outlet to where they’re surrounded by people who understand what they’ve gone through or are experiencing,” Rountree said. “So, Art is Good Medicine isn’t just for the cancer patient or survivor it’s also for the caregivers and family members.”

Rountree said that she likes to allow instructors to get creative with each workshop and while she gives a basic topic or medium she would like them to teach on and take the activity in whatever direction they see fit.

This month’s workshop on silk scarves will be taught by Art Director for the American Cancer Society, Mary Dementev, who is an Art is Good Medicine workshop instructor both at Emerge and at the hospital. Dementev said that she will be demonstrating several different techniques on how to dye a silk scarf at the workshop held tonight.

“I might show them what the dye does when you put salt on in, what happens when you put water on it, what happens when you put rubbing alcohol is one,” Dementev said. “They will have all of these different techniques that I have showed them, I think there is about eight, then they get to create their own image, and within the image they can use whatever techniques that interest them the most.”

Dementev also works with the children in the Children’s Hospital at Vidant doing one-on-one lessons and said that her goal is to make sure the children she works with are having a fun experience.

“Once I start working with them it is more about quality than quantity. So I can work with one child for all three and a half hours,” Dementev said. “As long as they are creating and we are having that experience we just keep going.”

Dementev said that she does a variety of different activities with the kids, often doing more than one project in a sitting. Projects she has done with the kids include beading kits, decorating pin-wheels, lanterns, and inflatable balls, and even decorating the kids’ rooms for her birthday.

Child life specialists from the Children’s hospital work with Dementev to point her in the direction of kids who they think would be interested in working with her. Child Life Specialist Ellyse Bochna said she likes that the program allows their patients to reap the benefits of engaging in the arts.

“They can engage in a normal part of life while in the hospital, express their feelings in creative ways, and have exposure to artistic activities with the support from an artist,” Bochna said. “This has become something that our children look forward to and we use as a tool in conjunction with our services to meet their needs.”

Fellow Child Life Specialist Jaymi Mendoza said that she believes that art is indeed good medicine.

“Being in the hospital presents many challenges to coping and can disrupt aspects of normal life, so being able to relax, focus on things other than medical needs, and have an outlet for these feelings is essential,” Mendoza said. “This program is a vital part of giving our patients the experiences they need to not only improve medically but have a more complete healing experience.”

These free workshops require pre-registration to ensure that enough materials are available for everyone. Pre-registration can be completed at the Emerge Art Gallery website under the Education and Classes tab or by filling out a form at the front desk at Emerge.

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