Arts in Health

In 2018 the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund launched Arts in Health, a $10-million multi-year initiative to support organizations working on health issues that impact New York communities and that utilize the arts as a tool for healing. The Fund is supporting the expansion of programs that work at this intersection, with special attention to increasing access for underserved communities and addressing disparities.

The initiative highlights the value of multiple artistic disciplines, including visual art, dance, music, theater, and film, and focuses on three main issues: mental health stigma, trauma, aging-related diseases, as well as caring for caregivers and frontline healthcare staff.


Photo by Eddie Marritz.

The Role of the Arts in Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Although mental illness is common, the perceived stigma associated with mental health conditions continues to keep people from seeking help, produces a sense of hopelessness and shame, undermines personal accomplishment, and can have disastrous consequences on individuals and families. Mental health conditions contribute toward substance abuse, incarceration, homelessness, unemployment, and suicide. According to Mental Health America, only 40% of people who had a mental disorder in the past year received professional care or other services.

Arts and culture can have a significant effect on diminishing stigma and building understanding and engagement. A leading expert on stigma, Dr. Patrick Corrigan, has identified several key ingredients to effective anti-stigma initiatives, including sharing stories about personal challenges, hearing from people with “lived experiences,” face-to-face contact that includes a common goal, and having an uplifting message. Those ingredients undergird programs that the Illumination Fund supports through the Arts in Health initiative.


Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

The Role of the Arts in Addressing Trauma

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. Trauma has a profound effect on individuals, families and communities, with a disproportionate impact in low-income and communities of color.

Creative expression can be a tool to help individuals and communities by aiding with coping and recovery, building understanding of critical issues, promoting wellness and resilience, developing social bonds, and reducing stigma so barriers to care are decreased.


Photo by Nan Melville.

The Role of Arts in Addressing Aging-Related Diseases

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.

Aging-related diseases cut across social, ethnic and economic boundaries. However, there is a wide gap in services and 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.



A Pioneering Partnership with the largest city hospital system in the U.S.

The fund partners with New York City Health + Hospitals, the public health care system, to expand programs serving health care staff, patients, and communities in sites across the City.

The Arts in Medicine program at NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) seeks to foster the emotional well-being and promote healing, wellness, and engagement of patients, families, employees, and the greater health system’s community by integrating all disciplines of the arts such as literary, visual and performing arts throughout the public hospital system.