Illumination Fund Rolls Out Arts in Health Initiative by Convening 2018 Grantees to Support Exchange and Collaboration

In addition to making grants, in the first year of the Arts in Health initiative the Illumination Fund convened its grantee partners, health experts, New York City arts leaders, foundations, philanthropists and community partners to share ideas and demonstrate impact.  Each event focused on a distinct theme and showcased three of LMTIF’s 2018 grantees.

“Throughout our 10-year history, the Illumination Fund has been a proponent for access to the arts for all New Yorkers,” said Laurie M. Tisch, president and founder.  “The arts play a unique role in developing minds, enriching lives, strengthening communities and contributing to a vibrant culture. Creative expression can be a tool to help individuals and communities by aiding with coping and recovery, building understanding, promoting wellness and resilience, and reducing stigma so the barriers to care are reduced. But why should someone’s zip code determine the access they have to care? Why should the arts be available only to those with financial means? We at the Illumination Fund believe that the arts benefit everyone, and the organizations we support are those that are working to provide more access to people who otherwise would not have it.”

Utilizing the Arts to Address the Stigma of Mental Illness

The first gathering in the foundation’s Arts in Health initiative was held April 24th, 2018 at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House, in partnership with the Aspen Institute and Hunter College.  The gathering examined ways that the arts are addressing mental health stigma. The event featured leaders of three New York-based organizations and agencies working in the field: Community Access, Fountain House and the NYC Mural Arts Project at the Department of Health. Introductory remarks were provided by Patrick Corrigan, author, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and a foremost expert in mental health stigma who has authored or edited more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and 15 books on mental health.

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray discussing mental health stigma

“Many people with serious mental illness are challenged doubly,” says Dr. Corrigan. “On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.”

According to Corrigan, “The stigma of mental illness is first and foremost a social justice issue. Although stigmatizing attitudes are not limited to mental illness, the public seems to disapprove of persons with psychiatric disabilities significantly more than persons with related conditions such as physical illness. Severe mental illness has been likened to drug addiction, prostitution, and criminality.”

Theater of War: excerpts from Sophocles Ajax, performed by Kathryn Erbe and David Zayas with Bryan Doerries

Corrigan’s research has identified several key ingredients to effective anti-stigma initiatives, including face-to-face contact, sharing stories about personal challenges, presenters with “lived experiences,” contact that includes a common goal, and having an uplifting message.  Those ingredients undergird the Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Competition, the NYC Mural Arts Project, and Fountain House Gallery.

The Arts as a Tool to Address Trauma

On September 17, 2018, at Hostos Community College LMTIF convened experts and stakeholders to discuss the role of the arts in addressing trauma.  Co-hosted with Bronx Council on the Arts, the gathering featured the Art Therapy Project, Theater of War, and Gibney. Framing the issue of trauma was Dr. Loree Sutton, retired Brigadier General and founding commissioner for the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, our nation’s first municipal-level agency devoted entirely to veterans and their families. Dr. Sutton shared personal stories and a offered a stirring reminder that the trauma of war affects our entire society, not just the people experiencing it directly, but also touching the families and friends of veterans, and continuing to have impact for generations afterwards.

The National Institute of Health department of Veteran Affairs reports that 7.7 million Americans experience PTSD each year. Combat-related trauma is only part of the story. PTSD United, a service organization, reports that currently an estimated 8% of Americans–or 24.4 million people—suffer from trauma-related illness.

Trauma can be caused by experiencing or witnessing frightening, life-threatening or violent events. It can also be the result of prolonged or repeated exposure to injurious conditions. In all cases, trauma has a profound effect on individuals, families and communities. An effective way to help individuals and communities cope and to recover is through creative expression. Using the arts as a tool can promote wellness and resilience, reduce the stigma wrongfully associated with trauma victims, and help foster broader understanding and the lowering of barriers to care.

In 2018 the Illumination Fund commissioned a national Harris Poll that found that 87% of Americans surveyed believe that the arts help people overcome a traumatic event. 

The Arts in Addressing Aging-Related Diseases

On November 28, 2018, LMTIF hosted a gathering to explore the role of the arts to help address aging-related diseases at the Mark Morris Dance Studio in Brooklyn, featuring Dance for PD (Parkinson’s disease), Arts & Minds, and The Creative Center at University Settlement. The gathering also featured a special performance of a monologue from Colman Domingo’s extraordinary play, Dot, performed by Denise Burse, who starred in Kenny Leon’s production at RestorationART’s Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford Stuyvesant.

 “The arts are a creative outlet, they can spark memory, provide physical and psychological support, and, engaging in the arts with others can help build community as well as lower stigma and social isolation, not just for the person suffering from illness, but for his or her family and caregivers,” said Laurie M. Tisch, president and founder of the Illumination Fund. “The organizations we support are working in all of these areas and at the same time are helping to level the playing field, so that more people have the support they need.”

Aging-related diseases cut across social, ethnic and economic boundaries. Engagement in the arts can be a critical tool to help people cope with illness and improve their outlook and quality of life. Engagement in the arts also decreases isolation and builds community not only for the person living with an illness, but for family and caregivers. There is a wide gap in quality of life for aging populations in New York between those with financial resources and those without. Support from the Illumination Fund is intended to help organizations serve more people, build capacity within their organizations and level the playing field.

Denise Burse, star of Colman Domingo’s Dot, performing a monologue with Indira Etwaroo, RestorationART

DISPARITIES and STIGMA in AGING-RELATED DISEASE

The convenings brought attention to disparities in both rates of aging-related disease and access to care among poor and minority populations. Stress, due to poverty, discrimination, adversity and trauma is thought to impact aging-related disease rates in African American and Latinx populations. Higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes are also thought to be factors in increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias among lower-income and minority populations.

Gender plays another significant role. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. But women who suffer from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are less likely to have informal care from spouses, family and communities.  A recent study shows that women with Parkinson’s tend to lack much-needed support from informal caregivers such as spouses, family members and paid health aides. Female patients are more frequent users of formal, paid caregiver services than male patients.

Stigmas and misconceptions associated with dementia and Parkinson’s are widespread. . People with dementia and Parkinson’s, and their families, are often isolated, or hidden, because of stigma or the possibility of negative reactions from neighbors, relatives, friends or employers. . People with dementias and Parkinson’s often conceal their diagnoses because of concerns about being treated differently or avoided in social situations and this may contribute to feelings of hopelessness and frustration. As with cancer and HIV, fear and stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias or Parkinson’s may cause individuals to delay seeking a diagnosis and care.

Participants in Dance for PD performance

NYC Health + Hospitals and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Launch Arts in Medicine Program

NYC Health + Hospitals and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Launch Arts in Medicine Program

Nation’s largest public health system and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City awarded $1.5 million from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund to expand programs serving health care staff, patients, and communities in sites across the City

Expansion includes initiatives to use the arts as a resource to promote employee wellness and resilience and to combat compassion fatigue

(New York, NY ― February 27, 2019)  Joined by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYC Health + Hospitals leadership—the philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch announced today at a news conference a $1.5 million grant via the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to launch the public health system’s Arts in Medicine program. The program will introduce new initiatives benefiting staff and patients at hospitals, community health centers, and long-term care facilities, as well as support broader adoption of initiatives that have worked at a single site. The news conference was held at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.

The grant is provided through the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund’s Arts in Health initiative, which supports organizations using the arts to address health issues affecting New Yorkers, with particular attention to increasing access to care and addressing disparities in health outcomes. The three-year grant to NYC Health + Hospitals, which is the largest municipal health system in the country and serves approximately 1.1 million New Yorkers annually, will significantly expand the public health system’s arts programs.

Beyond serving patients, the Arts in Medicine program will create new initiatives aimed at staff as a means to reduce stress, support emotional health, and help address “compassion fatigue,” historically known as “physician burnout.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals is in the vanguard of hospital systems across the country using the arts as a tool for healing,” said Laurie Tisch, Founder and President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “We know from decades of research that the arts have an important role to play in reducing stress and helping individuals in their healing process. We are pleased to be able to help increase access to these services to more patients, and also to the healthcare professionals who are so vital to the system. As first responders, doctors and health professionals are under enormous stress, and these programs are proven tools to support them in their work.” Ms. Tisch also serves as Vice Chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Trustee and Past Chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“I am grateful for the additional resources and greater attention we are now able to give our caretakers and their patients. New York City’s health care providers are on the frontlines every day and we must support them in every way we can,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Art is an important tool that can reduce stress and promote healing, and should be available to everyone. The Mayor’s Fund is grateful to Laurie Tisch and the Illumination Fund for their commitment to using art to support mental health.”

“Engaging in the arts makes for happier patients and less stressed staff, and we want our care community to benefit from a substantive and accessible Arts in Medicine program,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We are enormously grateful to Laurie Tisch and the Illumination Fund for their generosity and for having the appreciation and foresight to encourage the arts as a tool for fostering wellness and making it a priority for our patients and staff.”

“The arts empower us, inspire us, and help support a healthier, healing environment.  Art can be complementary to the physical care we provide by helping improve one’s emotional well-being, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety,” said William Hicks, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “Art belongs in public and shared spaces, and it communicates our value of creative human expression. It demonstrates passion, skill, and diversity and is similarly reflected in our dedicated staff at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. We are grateful for the gifts of art on display such as ‘Ruth’s Dream’ in our south lobby, our sculptures, lithographs, and other mixed media that enriches our facility. This is a place where art meets medicine as we work to alleviate suffering and restore wellness.”

“Arts in Medicine is a fantastic example of innovation that’s possible when philanthropy, advocates, and government partner to develop solutions to some of our more complex public challenges—such as improving public health approaches and outcomes,” said Darren Bloch, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. “We are grateful for the support the Illumination Fund is bringing to the nation’s largest municipal hospital system, and the vision shared by Laurie M. Tisch and our partners at the Mayor’s Fund and Health + Hospitals.”

“The power of partnership is on full display today with the launch of Arts in Medicine,” said Toya Williford, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “Patients and health care workers will benefit from art as a tool to promote healing, and to lower workplace stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Our longstanding partnership with the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund exemplifies the important role public-private partnerships play to increase access to care while improving health outcomes. We are incredibly thankful to Laurie Tisch for her unwavering commitment to supporting a shared healing process for our health care workers and the patients they serve.”

“Art and culture contribute to healthy, thriving communities across NYC, something that our colleagues at NYC Health + Hospitals understand and embrace,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “We applaud the Mayor’s Fund and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for supporting this effort to integrate the arts into our health care system—connecting medical professionals, caregivers, and patients directly; encouraging dialogue and collaboration; and transforming situations better known for stress and anxiety into positive, creative experiences.”

“Art therapy is a valuable component of promoting patient well-being, especially in mental and behavioral health treatment,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.“Thank you to Laurie M. Tish for helping Health + Hospitals continue to be a national leader in providing a comprehensive and diverse set of patient and staff supports and services, and this grant will significantly expand access to these programs.” 

The Arts in Medicine program will introduce new initiatives such as:

  • HHArt of Medicine, an art-observation initiative that guides clinicians through intensive art viewing designed to enhance focus, improve communication, and encourage active listening, which in turn improves their ability to serve patients;
  • SoulCollage, workshops that facilitate self-discovery through collage composition to help staff express and share their experiences and emotions; and
  • Communal Murals, collaborative projects of hospital artists in residence, staff, and community members to create stunning works of art inside and outside facilities.

“Studies conducted in 2007 by Repar and Patton demonstrated that arts programs can lower rates of tension, anger, depression, and fatigue—symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue. We value our staff, and Arts in Medicine will help bring back the joy in work and improve outcomes for staff and ultimately the patients,” said Linh Dang, Senior Director of the Arts in Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals. 

Additionally, patient-oriented programs that have taken place in single hospitals will be expanded to other hospitals and clinics. For example, Music & Memory engages patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive loss by creating personalized playlists with familiar songs for enhanced memory retrieval and cognitive functioning, among a variety of other positive health effects. The Lullaby Project, another example, partners pregnant women and new mothers with professional musicians to compose lullabies for their babies, ultimately reducing maternal anxiety and depression, aiding in child development, and strengthening the bond between parent and child.

“Employees throughout the system have taken the initiative to create extraordinary programs,” but they have happened in isolation,” said Dr. Katz.  “Expanding programs to new sites will leverage the engagement and enthusiasm and will enable staff to collaborate across our system and learn from each other.”

“Today, we are re-imagining the role of the arts in our health system to create active programming that will enrich our community,” said Dave A. Chokshi, MD, NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer. “Arts in Medicine is about engaging patients, clinicians, caregivers, and staff in different types of healing connections. Visual arts, performing arts, theater, and literary arts help us tap into imagination, creativity, and expression as part of improving health.”

Physicians have reported a sense of renewed energy and focus as a direct result of engaging in the arts. Research on outcomes involving medical students who engaged in art observation training—reported on in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology—found that observational skills were improved significantly.

“I was first exposed to art in medicine when my residency class participated in an interactive art observation session at the Detroit Institute of Arts,” said Eric Wei, MD,Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Even though we were looking at the same painting, we had different interpretations of what was going on. It helped me realize how this happens at the bedside and how important communication is to achieving a shared mental model.”

Although art observation programs have existed for medical students and physicians in training and often have taken place in museums, the new visual art observation program will take advantage of the health system’s extensive collection of more than 3,000 art works, which began with commissioned pieces through the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and grew to include some of America’s leading artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Keith Haring. The health system’s collection is the largest public art collection in New York City.

The creation of the Arts in Medicine program to address compassion fatigue among staff also fits with related programs at NYC Health + Hospitals. Helping Healers Heal is one such initiative launched by the public health system in April 2018. Following the model first adopted by Drs. Katz and Wei when they served together in the Los Angeles public health system, this peer-led employee wellness program offers emotional first aid to health care providers who are suffering from workplace stress or anxiety and may be at high risk of depression.

Arts and Medicine, at a glance

  • Initiatives for patients
    • Music & Memory®
    • The Lullaby Project
    • Visible Ink, a writing project to support patients battling cancer
  • Initiatives for staff
    • HHArt of Medicine
    • SoulCollage®
  • Initiatives for patients, staff, and the community
    • Communal Murals
    • Audio Art Tour
    • Rotating Art Exhibits
    • Live Concerts

Other initiatives are expected to be introduced over time.