Building on its 10 years of supporting organizations that help improve the lives of New Yorkers, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund (LMTIF) has launched a $10-million-dollar, multi-year initiative to support organizations working on health issues that impact New York communities and that emphasize the arts as a tool for healing. The new initiative focuses on three main issues in 2018: mental illness stigma, trauma, and aging related diseases.
“Decades of scientific study show that engagement in the arts provides cognitive, emotional and physical health benefits for people from youth to old age, but there are great disparities in access to services in New York City,” says Laurie M. Tisch, president and founder of LMTIF. “This initiative will help organizations doing important work with underserved populations, increase their ability to reach more people, and build awareness of the role the arts can play in healing. At our core, we are dedicated to using the arts to help build healthy and vibrant communities in New York City.”
New York City Organizations Connecting Arts in Health
To kick off the Arts in Health Initiative, LMTIF is providing initial grants to nine New York City organizations spanning disciplines such as visual art, film, community murals, theater, dance and other arts disciplines:
- Community Access & the Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Competition: film as a medium to combat mental health stigma among youth
- NYC Mural Arts Project (NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with the Fund for Public Health): large-scale community mural-making to spark dialogue about mental health in communities and to challenge stereotypes and stigma
- Fountain House Gallery: a pioneering visual arts gallery and shared studio workspace for artists with mental illness
- The Art Therapy Project, group art-making as a therapeutic tool for people who have experienced severe trauma
- Gibney Community Action: dance as a vehicle for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse
- Arts & Minds: museum-based workshops for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, along with their caregivers.
- The Creative Center at University Settlement: arts participation to promote creative aging and as an outlet for patients and survivors of cancer and other serious diseases
- Dance for PD (the Mark Morris Dance Group): dance and movement workshops for people with Parkinson’s Disease.
- The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine and the Friedman Brain Institute at Mount Sinai: Mount Sinai is conducting a neuroscience-based multisite investigation of the benefits of music therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Says Laurie M. Tisch, “LMTIF is deeply committed to increasing access and opportunity in a range of issues, from access to healthy food, access to the arts and arts education, to economic opportunity. That’s why I created the foundation. As with other areas in which we have focused, in Arts and Health we see significant barriers to access, and issues of inequity, so we are funding programs that help overcome disparities in access to those in need.”
In addition to making grants, LMTIF will convene its grantee partners, health experts, New York City arts leaders, foundations, philanthropists and community partners to share ideas and demonstrate impact. Each event will focus on a distinct theme and will showcase three of LMTIF’s new grantees.
The first gathering in the foundation’s Arts in Health initiative was held April 24th, 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 will be 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.
“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.”
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.
On September 13, LMTIF will convene experts and stakeholders to discuss the role of the arts in addressing trauma at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, with the Art Therapy Project, Theater of War, and Gibney. On November 28th LMTIF will host 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 and Minds, and The Creative Center at University Settlement.