The Treasure Coast Art Project
By Brenda McCullers
As a cancer patient in 2010, I began researching ways to deal with the stress that comes with battling disease. In the process, I discovered visual journaling. I used this personal and transportable form of art as a way to document my journey. It helped me look beyond my circumstances and provided a way to share my experience. Today, I am cancer free and eager to share the benefits of art with children in the Martin County, Florida community that are struggling with cancer.
Although there is no way to scientifically gage the value of art for people with cancer, there is a wealth of information supporting the positive effects of art for people struggling with physical illnesses. Some believe art therapy is “a ‘Complimentary Medicine’ with elements necessary to produce healing” (Leeuwenburgh, 2000). The American Cancer Society describes art as being “a way to help people manage physical and emotional problems” that may occur as a result of the disease. Art helps people express hidden emotions; it reduces stress, fear, and anxiety, and provides a sense of freedom (Art Therapy, 2008).
Today, art is being successfully used to help children struggling with disease. One example is the Harlem Horizon Art Studio at Harlem Hospital Center. Participants at this 25-year-old program are encouraged to develop their own personal artistic styles. Their work is displayed in the hospital and at galleries throughout the northeast (HHC, 2014).
Another program is the Children’s Art Project at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. At this forty-year-old program children work alongside each other and as they create art, they support, inspire, and encourage one another. The Children’s Art Project has returned more than $30 million to programs that benefit pediatric cancer patients and their families (The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Art Project, 2014).
The Treasure Coast Art Project will provide expressive art workshops for children with cancer and their families. The workshops will be a bi-yearly outreach program held at Treasure Coast Community Church in Jensen Beach, Florida. Each workshop will have five stations of art activities specifically designed for children struggling with cancer. The stations will be staffed with trained volunteers, medical professionals, local artists and art educators. Area oncologists and the local American Cancer Society office will be notified well in advance of the workshops so they can inform families that have children with cancer. People will be asked to sign up so the appropriate amount of supplies can be bought, prepared, and set up.
Children struggling with cancer will be given an art kit that can be taken with them for doctor’s appointments, treatments, and tests. The kit will be stored in a lap desk with a storage compartment and handle which makes them easily portable. They will include stickers and self-sticking foam shapes to decorate the medical masks they have to wear; as well as pencils, eraser, a sharpener, colored pencils, and a visual journal. Wherever they are, however they feel, whatever they are thinking, the children will have the tools they need to express themselves through art.
Partial funding is already available with Treasure Coast Community Church offering the use of their building free of charge to hold the workshops and requests for donations from Crayola are being made through Goods 360 (http://about.good360.org). Additional funds will be raised from the sales of patient’s original artwork on seasonal note cards and gift items made available in local shops and businesses, and through the Treasure Coast Art Project website.
With cancer being the number one cause of death in Martin County, and the community service providers having a history of actively forming partnerships in an effort to meet the health needs of its residents, I am positive this program will quickly gain community support and assistance (Gray, 2010).
Art Therapy (2008, November 1). In American Cancer Society. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/mindbodyandspirit/art-therapy.
HHC Art. (2014). Retrieved March 9, 2014, from http://www.nychhcart.org/index.html#.
Leeuwenburgh, E. (2000). Children, Art, and Home Health Care: the Universal Language.
Home Health Care Manage Practice 12(5), 40-45.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Art Project. (2014) Retrieved April 13, 2014, from http://www.childrensart.org/home.php.