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The Healing Arts: New Pathways to Health

The Healing Arts: New Pathways to Health

The unique program documented in this film uses the arts in an innovative treatment approach for people living with chronic, disabling physical and emotional challenges. Through artist residencies and intergenerational workshops it integrates technology, writing, music, theater, dance, and other arts into patient care, staff training, and wellness programs.

At the North Shore Medical Center, writer Peggy Rambach teaches memoir writing to a group of patients living with cancer - but also facilitates a 'caring for caregivers' group for staff members. At the end of the program, the two groups together give a moving public reading.

Dancer Michelle Pearson helps residents of the Vermont Veterans' Home use their bodies' memory to recapture the joys of everyday life that their conscious memories may have lost touch with. Working with the often stressed and exhausted family members of residents, she asks participants to think about 'something you want not to be forgotten - but you can't bear to speak about,' then helps them to express their feelings through movement.

At Tewksbury State Hospital, staff use the computer-based 'hyperscore' music composition program, developed by Tod Machover, to enable people with mental illness or physical and developmental disabilities to create complex and original musical pieces. A scene in which an orchestra performs a work created by new composer Dan Ellsey, who has Cerebral Palsy, is a high point of the documentary.

Partnerships such as these, between professional artists, arts organizations, and healthcare institutions, may offer new ways to develop meaningful dialogue and compassionate relationships between caregivers, patients, and the larger community. The Healing Arts Initiative is a joint project of the Vermont Arts Exchange and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.