Arts in Medicine

Arts and medicine


Arts in Medicine has always been an interest .  Having been in a professional artist for over 30 years. I recognize the relationship between art and healing within my own creative world. In 2008 I discovered that there was a whole field relevant to arts and medicine. My colleague Connie Schrader and I have created the Center for Arts in Medicine in Asheville, N.C. Please visit our website to see more information about arts in medicine.

The field of arts and medicine has been around for eons of time, historically and globally throughout cultures, and is embedded in practices of beliefs of healing. From the early cave paintings in Lascaux France, to the Tibetan medical  Thanghas, art identifies beliefs and cosmologies that are integrated into it’s expressive qualities of color, movement, language and music. The arts have been essential in shaping cultural identity and bridging understanding of cultural differences. In the United States, within the past 20 years, the arts had moved into the culture of healthcare, re-creating the link between medicine and the boundless benefits of art’s essential qualities. TThroughout recorded history, we see evidence that pictures, stories, dances, armusic and drama have been central to healing rituals. Today’s renewed focus on humanistic care is leading a resurgence in the knowledge and practice of incorporating the arts into healthcare and medicine.

What is the field of arts and medicine and how and why have the arts been integrated into healthcare? What is the distinction between arts and medicine in the arts in healthcare? Arts in healthcare is an emerging field that began simultaneously in different parts of Europe, the UK, the United States and Canada in the 1970s. A clear definition of arts in healthcare comes from an organization that has grown out of the movement of arts in healthcare called the Society for the Arts in Healthcare.

“Arts in healthcare is a diverse multiple disciplinary field dedicated to transforming the healthcare experience by connecting people with the power of the arts a key moments in their lives. This rapidly growing field integrates the arts including literary performing and visual arts and design into a variety of healthcare and community settings for therapeutic, educational and expressive purposes.” (Society for the Arts in Healthcare, 2009)

arts in medicine

to discover the beginnings of the arts in healthcare art must be looked at within the context and environment of healthcare and what has ignited its initiation. Arts in medicine is historically and globally embedded in diverse cultures. In the realm of healthcare, Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida has taken the lead in adopting the term arts and medicine and it refers to a more contemporary practice and model of the arts being a part of an interim role to medicine to understand how art has become part of medicine, it is important to look at how medicine and health care have evolved within the United States and around the world.

Art in medicine has been around since the early cave paintings in Lascaux,France. Animism, which is one of humanity’s oldest belief systems dates from the Paleolithic age.  Animism, or anima,meaning the breath or soul, holds the belief that every object has a soul or spirit even  inanimate ones. This spirit, or soul, is in direct relationship to the gods or spirits. The rituals amulets and objects born out of this connection to the gods or the invisible realm amplified the relational quality of beliefs, healing, and art, to the larger universe of which we are part. Animists do not call their objects, art, and yet these objects are beautifully crafted and embed the intrinsic qualities of faith and beliefs within the context of ritual and community. A clear intention and purpose is embedded in each object to communicate and make relational, the connection to the great mystery.


What is revealed in animistic cultures is the power of what we in the West call art, to trends in our experiences humans into the mystery of what our embodiment reveals. In animistic cultures, ritual, sound, song, and dance, inform and inspire a sense of connectedness with in community. Looking through the threshold that animism reveals requires rediscovering the imagination that has been lost his children. Art is not distinguished as separate and animism it is a living medicine. What is received from animism’s healing practices is the power of art to transcend our human experience and to connect us to that which we tether our beliefs and faith to. From the tube and Siberian culture and the west African… Are the to the Balinese and the Native Americans we are reminded that our spirit is part of our embodiment it is the vitalizing principle of life.