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Oishei Foundation Grant Supports New Arts in Healthcare Program

By David Wedekindt

Release Date: December 14, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo has been awarded a $287,182 grant by the John R. Oishei Foundation to establish a program that will bring the performing arts and artists into health-care settings to enhance the healing environment for patients and caregivers in Western New York.

The center's innovative Arts in Healthcare initiative is being established in collaboration with Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, a Kaleida Health facility.

The first program of its kind in Western New York, it will be modeled after a highly successful program at the University of Florida. Plans call for Arts in Healthcare to expand to additional health-care facilities in the region.

"Through many of our community-based grants, we have seen the remarkable influence of the arts in conveying information and helping to change behaviors," said Robert D. Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation. "We are particularly interested in seeing the results of a formal, institutionally-based program with the resources behind it brought by UB and the Kaleida System."

UB President John B. Simpson noted, "The arts contribute in vital ways to UB's impact on the world around us.  The Arts in Healthcare program is a vivid example of the power of the public research university, working in tandem with our partner institutions across the region, to make a meaningful and lasting difference in the communities we serve. 

"We are proud to join with the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo to foster an arts-enhanced healing environment for the benefit of patients and caregivers throughout the region, and we are grateful for the Oishei Foundation's strong support of this visionary Center for the Arts program," Simpson added.

Thomas Burrows, executive director of the Center for the Arts, said he was inspired by the University at Florida program.

"When I was shown what the involvement and deep commitment of the very best professional artists working together with dedicated, enlightened professional caregivers could accomplish through their combined efforts to benefit patients, their families and hospital staff, I knew that the Center for the Arts could and should create a comprehensive program within this great research university for and with the larger community.

Burrows added: "We have been so fortunate to find such a willing and far-sighted partner in Women and Children's Hospital.  This program has been designed to grow, evolve, and to meet changing needs as they become apparent."

Cheryl Klass, president of Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, noted: "This innovative program will continue to enhance the healing environment we provide for women and children in our hospital. We are so pleased to partner with UB and bring this innovative program to life in Western New York."

Arts in Healthcare has been in the planning stages for the past year; the Center for the Arts has worked closely on its development with Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and Jill Sonke-Henderson, co-founder and co-director of the University of Florida's Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education (CAHRE).

Burrows noted that the shared vision of the two organizations has brought the initiative to fruition quickly. Two pilot projects were completed this fall with classical guitarist Robert Bluestone and the Hudson Vagabond Puppets.

He said that next summer the Center for the Arts will host an intensive training program facilitated by the University of Florida's CAHRE program where local invited visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and storytellers will be trained to work with patients, families, and staff in health-care settings as integral members of the healthcare team.

Burrows said Arts in Healthcare is aligned with the strategic strengths in "Artistic Expression and Performing Arts" and "Health and Wellness Across the Life Span" that have been identified in the UB 2020 strategic plan being implemented by the University at Buffalo with the goal of rising among the ranks of the nation's public research universities.

"The program will offer the benefits of multidisciplinary research and scholarship for the benefit of our community, while allowing the center to broaden its artistic and cultural reach in the region," he added. "This project will help to increase the national and international visibility of UB and Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo."

The arts have existed in health-care systems since the beginning of recorded history. Early in the 20th century, however, the arts were dropped from Western health-care with the intention of making health-care facilities appear sleek, sanitary and more focused on technology. In the second half of the century, there was a resurgence of interest in bringing art back into health-care environments.

Burrows said studies have shown that integrating the arts into these settings helps to cultivate a healing environment, support the mental and emotional recovery of patients, communicate health and recovery information, and foster positive working conditions for caregivers to improve satisfaction and retention.

He noted that visual, literary, and performing arts are flourishing in hospitals, outpatient programs, hospices, and nursing and retirement facilities throughout the world. The most comprehensive and well-integrated program is the one in Florida where Shands Hospital created an "Artist-in-Residence" program in 1991 for its pediatric oncology clinic. The program spread rapidly to other units and by 1997 there were 14 visual, literary and performance artists in the facility. The University of Florida Performing Arts (UFPA) and Shands Arts in Medicine formed a partnership to bring performing artists from UFPA's season into the health care setting.

The University of Florida's Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education was established in 1999. CAHRE provides a framework for interdisciplinary collaboration among University of Florida faculty and students, health-care providers, clinical artists, and the local and global communities. The program has been so successful that a new initiative, AIM Together Florida, is being funded by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs to expand the program into five additional Florida partnerships.

The John R. Oishei Foundation's mission is to enhance the quality of life for Buffalo area residents by supporting education, health care, scientific research and the cultural, social, civic and other charitable needs of the community. The foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corporation.

The Center for the Arts is dedicated to the cultural enrichment of the University at Buffalo and its surrounding communities through the presentation of public arts and cultural events of the highest quality. Celebrating the creative process through innovative programming, the Center crosses socio-economic, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries. The Center nurtures excellence and innovation in the arts through education, presentation, community service, and research in the visual and performing arts, while broadening the base of understanding, appreciation, and support for the arts through meaningful community partnerships.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Each year, nearly 28,000 patients are admitted to Women and Children's Hospital. Women and Children's Hospital practices Family-Centered Care (FCC), which is an approach that includes families as full partners with the health care team. Meaningful partnerships and collaboration builds on service excellence and leads to quality and safety in health care.