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University community uses the arts for health and healing
By Melissa W. Kaye
|It may seem at first glance that a landscape architect, a nurse practitioner and an art education professor might be an unusual working trio. The same goes for a professor of hotel, restaurant and recreation management paired with a landscape architect. What about a music professor and a physiologist?|
Theyre unique combinations of talent, with one thing in common: Theyve all contributed in some way to the Arts and Health Outreach Initiative (AHOI), a three-year multidisciplinary pilot program, currently in its second year, that aims to link the arts with public and personal health and healing.
Such diverse disciplines coming together demonstrates a wealth of opportunity for forging new health-giving partnerships, said Ermyn King, coordinator for AHOI, a pilot multidisciplinary initiative of Penn States colleges of Arts and Architecture, Health and Human Development and Medicine, and Penn State Outreach and Cooperative Extension.
And AHOIs broad definition of health and well-beingembracing concerns of the community in addition to individualsprovides members of the faculty and Outreach staff with plenty of opportunities to apply the initiative to their expertise. AHOIs wide range of goals and activities includes combating drug abuse, using music as a diagnostic tool and helping teenagers boost their self-esteem. Thats in addition to the initiatives involvement in many art exhibits and conferences.
The rich, interdisciplinary mix of AHOI is one of its strongest distinguishing features, opening a breadth of possibilities, King said.
And possibilities are quickly becoming realities. Take, for example, Dr. Samuel F. Dennis Jr., assistant professor of landscape architecture, and Dr. Susan Hutchinson, assistant professor of hotel, restaurant and recreation management, both at University Park. The two met through connections from an AHOI networking event after Dennis heard that Hutchinson was interested in arts-based community developmentsomething Dennis had been working on with his students in Harrisburgs South Allison Hill area. Together, they are now working on projects to improve social networks in the neighborhood, which is riddled with crime and drugs. Hutchinsons contribution is in the form of a service-learning course, first offered this spring. Her students will plan an event, a festival that aims to celebrate the cultural diversity in the South Allison Hill neighborhood.
There are a number of minority groups in the area, but there is little contact between the groups, Hutchinson said. Its a way to bridge the groups and to have them seen as an asset, not a problem. Her students would not only learn skills of event management through the process of planning the April festival, but they also would have the experience of connecting with an ethnically diverse neighborhood, she added.
It would provide a meaningful opportunity for students to learn about cultural diversity and how they can try to use events as tools for building community, she said.
Dennis and his students are working with youth groups in the area on projects to revitalize social networks, he said. With kids from church programs, after-school programs and community groups, they are collecting information about the neighborhood in the form of photography, drawings and maps. They plan to present their work to the mayor at the end of the course as a vision for the future, Dennis added.
When we work with the community, we think: What are the positive things? he said. There is a negative perception of youth, with drugs and school dropouts. We want to show that youth matter. The arts is the best place for that.
Faculty have also put the arts to use in helping to boost self-esteem in teenagers. The tool is Cyberhouse, a Web-based game under development with the help of several experts from different fields.
The goal [of the game] is to critique ones self-representation, said Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd, associate professor of art education at University Park. After users are pulled into an animated house, they will look at a mirror that will trigger questions about how they see themselves in society.
Its about creating art that represents who you are, Keifer-Boyd said.
Associate professor of landscape architecture Madis Pihlak will contribute to the project his expertise in creating 3-D environments (visual enticements to pull you in, Keifer-Boyd said). Other consultants on the project include Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, who has experience studying aggression in middle-school girls, and Nathaniel Bobbitt, director of information systems at the International Society for Technology in Education, based in Eugene, Ore.
Dellasega, associate professor of medicine and humanities in the College of Medicine at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, an AHOI board member and liaison for arts and healing at the Medical Center, has always in her work, as well as in her personal life, applied the arts to health and healing.
She cited writing as an example. Ive always been a writer and have seen how writing has helped me. Her studies on the effect of therapeutic writingon people with type 2 diabetes, as well as caregivers of the elderlyhave shown that writing can help reduce stress. She has been awarded a 200203 Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare grant to continue her study of the impact of therapeutic writing on people with type 2 diabetes. Her study of the impact of therapeutic writing on outcomes for rural medically underserved breast cancer patients is one of several being funded by the National Cancer Institute through its collaboration with the Appalachia Cancer Network. Dellasega also serves as a faculty adviser to a healing arts group of medical students working with patients on music and art activities at the Medical Center.
Other projects related to the Arts and Health Outreach Initiative include Dr. Mark Balloras research on displaying informationin this case, cardiology datawith sound. The resulting music can help doctors diagnose such medical conditions as sleep apnea. Ballora, assistant professor of music technology, School of Music and Department of Integrative Arts, said the project, which was suggested to him by a physiologist at McGill University who had heard of his work on electronic music, is the musical realization of health-related information. ... When you look at something visually, its hard to represent multidimensional data. But an auditory display is good for differentiating multiple streams of information. Its using art to make people healthy.
Cooperative Extension specialists such as Dr. Claudia Mincemoyer, assistant professor of 4-H youth curriculum development and chair of Cooperative Extensions Expressive Arts Committee, are another key resource for AHOI. With she and her colleagues bringing their research to bear on AHOI, its future looks bright.
Dr. Marilyn Corbin, assistant director of Cooperative Extension and state program leader for children, youth and families and an AHOI board member, summarized it this way: By weaving art into the Universitys outreach activities, the quality of community education is enriched. And as resources are combined, new learning opportunities are created that previously did not exist.
Highlights of Arts and Health Outreach Initiative activities
| Penn States Arts and Health Outreach Initiative (AHOI) features a wide range of events. Members of both the University faculty and Cooperative Extension faculty and staff are providing resources and expertise to the new venture. Here are some examples of AHOI activities:
Teen peer educationAn Update on Arts and Health Opportunities for Extension, with Ermyn King, Arts and Health Outreach Initiative coordinator; and the workshop Role Playing for Real Life: Drama as a Vehicle for Teen Peer Education, with Ellen Williams, registered drama therapist and assistant professor of 4-H youth development with Rutgers University Cooperative Extension; held this spring at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at University Park.
Orthopaedic arteMotion Pictures: An Exhibition of Orthopaedics in Art, from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Selections from the Visible Skeleton series by artist Laura Ferguson; through April 30 at Penn States Hershey Medical Center.
Quilt exhibitHealing Gardens Quilts exhibit of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare; April 4May 18 at the Hetzel Union Building-Robeson Center at University Park, then moving to the Hershey Medical Center through June.
Cancer survivorshipArts and Healing for Cancer Survivorship presentation by Penn State employees Martha Jordan and Ermyn King of AHOI, both cancer survivors, and Ann Pangborn, community liaison for AHOI and nationally certified expressive arts therapist; April 5 at an American Cancer Society Central Region survivorship conference at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at University Park.
Arts in health care conferencePresentations at the Society for the Arts in Healthcares conference by Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, associate professor of medicine and humanities, who will discuss her research on the effect of a therapeutic writing program on women in prison, with Dr. Irene Baird, director of the Womens Enrichment Center at Penn State Harrisburg; and Dr. Mark Ballora, assistant professor of music technology, who will discuss his research on sound as a diagnostic tool; April 912 in San Diego. In addition, the INFLUENCED Alcohol Awareness Poster Exhibition developed by Kristin Sommese, associate professor of art, and her graphic design students, in collaboration with University Health Services, will receive a Blair L. Sadler International Healing Arts Competition Award in the Student Category at the conference.
Seniors and artA presentation on seniors and arts-based activities by Dr. Matthew S. Kaplan, associate professor of intergenerational programs and aging and Cooperative Extension specialist; Ginger Pryor, horticultural therapist from Lebanon County Cooperative Extension; and Ermyn King of AHOI; April 23 at the Pennsylvania Department of Healths PrimeTime Health Conference, Atherton Hotel in State College.
Multisensory art galleryA tactile art gallery created for patrons with (and without) sight loss. Initiated by AHOI in collaboration with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, the Sight-Loss Support Group of Central Pennsylvania, the State College Area School District and St. Andrews Episcopal Church; July 913 at St. Andrews Church.
AHOI audio description trainingUniversal Design Practices in the Performing Arts: A Training Institute in Audio Description, July 1113 at Penn State University Park.
For more information about these and other Arts and Health Outreach Initiative events, call Ermyn King at 814-865-8230.