By Wendy Sarubbi | September 22, 2011 1:22 pm

Carrying the theme that “medicine cures the body, but art heals the spirit,” speakers at the UCF College of Medicine stressed the importance of artistic expression in helping patients heal and cope with illness.

The medical school celebrated the healing power of art Sept. 9 in conjunction with “Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos,” a traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine, that is on display at the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library. The display features ex-votos, small paintings from the Middle Ages, that gave thanks to a saint or a deity for a medical miracle. The library is also displaying “healing art” created by College of Medicine faculty, staff and students as well as “Art under the Microscope,” a traveling “Bioartography” quilt exhibit from the Society for the Arts in Healthcare.

Robin Glazer, president of The Creative Center in New York, was the keynote speaker at the event. With video interviews of patients and an interactive art project, Robin talked of how creating artwork gives patients freedom from chemotherapy and other treatments, and a way to give a voice and a meaning to their experience. Robin, a breast cancer survivor, began the center that now runs art programs in more than 20 New York City hospitals and recently helped develop a similar program at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando.

“Art takes you to a place where there is no cancer,” she said. “Art gives you the opportunity to tap into who we really are. Art gives you permission to be yourself.”

To illustrate her point, Robin gave everyone in the College of Medicine audience a thin scrap of colored paper and asked them to create from it an animal. Participants folded, tore and crumbled the paper to make a variety of creatures, including a bird, a butterfly, a whale and a horse. She asked what the participants were thinking as they created the art. Their answers spoke to the healing power of creativity: Participants were focused on the creation, on the lines and form of their art; they weren’t focused on their work challenges, schedules, calendars or assignments.

The celebration also featured a panel discussion on art and healing facilitated by Margot Knight, president and CEO of United Arts of Central Florida. Panelists included Dr. Clarence Brown III, president of MD Anderson Orlando, and Marie Mackey, nursing operations manager, MD Anderson Orlando, who oversees chemotherapy patients who have used art during their treatments.

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