(Fargo, N.D.) –A new art program is hoping to make a big impact on healing at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center. The Creative Center Hospital Artist in Residence (AIR) program offers patients, at their bedsides and in small group settings, the opportunity to be absorbed in their own creative process, as an antidote to the pain, anxiety and boredom that is often associated with long treatment periods and the diagnosis of cancer and other serious illnesses.
Artist Heather Zinger has been selected as the artist-in-residence for the program. Zinger holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in intermedia, photography, video and performance and is a freelance photographer and visual artist. Zinger’s previous work includes community-based projects such as “Endure”, a performance-based fundraising campaign for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Portland. The Artists-In-Residence are carefully selected and trained to work within the hospital setting and receive support and on-going supervision by The Creative Center staff. Creating art projects tailored to each patient and health care setting, AIRs commit to a minimum of one year of work, working at least one day each week, as a responsible member of the hospital team.
“After a few short weeks, we’ve already seen the great impact Heather has had on our patients,” says Shelby Terstriep, MD, an oncologist at Sanford and medical director for embrace, Sanford’s cancer survivorship program. “When you hear patients calling her an ‘angel’, you know that something special is happening here.”
Beyond providing much-needed relief and distraction, the program creates a safe outlet for patient’s emotions and allows them to experience mastery at a time when they have little control over their daily lives. Patients and staff quickly discover that they are more than their disease as they begin to explore art-making, some for the first time in their lives.
By providing one-on-one sessions with a caring and supportive artist, the program augments the patient support services already in place in most hospitals. The artwork that is created provides lively discussion between patients and hospital staff on a more individual and personal basis. The nursing and support staff of the hospitals feel proud to be able to offer something very special, and in many cases, have provided exhibition space for patient artwork.
The program is funded through a grant awarded to embrace, Sanford’s cancer support program, in 2012 through LIVESTRONG. Interested donors for the ongoing support of the program should contact the Sanford Foundation by calling (701) 234-6246; please specify funds to the Artist in Residence Fund.
Volunteer support is also welcome – please contact Sanford Volunteer Services at (701) 234-5940 for more information.
Sanford Cancer in Sioux Falls has also had an arts program, supported by several local artists-in-residence and a coordinator, which began in September 2007.