Artists Help Keep Young Patients’ Minds Off Medicine

Works by hundreds of young patients from Rush University Medical Center and other local hospitals will be on display next week at Snow City Arts‘ Gallery Night 2010. We spoke to two Snow City artists-in-residence, visual artist Allison Spicer and filmmaker John Lyons, about the event and the roles they play at Snow City and Rush.

Snow City artist-in-residence Allie Spicer with a patient

Why do you think what you do is important for kids here in a hospital?

Spicer:  I think what’s great about our job in the hospital — and we’re probably the very few that get to say this — is that we don’t see sick kids. When they come into the idea lab and into the studio they’re just lively kids. There’s times when they’ll get tired, and it’s a reminder that — oh, that’s right, they’re ill — and there’s a reason they’re here, but we get to walk into the room and be these people that are just there to have fun with them and make something of the day, make something out of anything that they want to do.

Lyons: We engage with them in a completely different way, besides their family and friends or whatever visitors. We’re probably the only people who walk through their door that aren’t asking anything medical of them — How are you feeling? How’s your medicine? Does it hurt here? Or we’re going to do this procedure or that. It’s really got nothing to do with that. So while the hospital and while the sick kids are sort of the thread that runs through everything that we do here, other than that it really doesn’t come up at all. There have been times, it sounds funny but there are times when you almost forget that you’re here, like you almost forget that you’re in a hospital.

Is that the most important thing — to keep their minds off  the other things that are going on with them?

Spicer: For us I think we’re trying more to teach them something for that day.

John Lyons working on a video with a student

Lyons: I think that happens organically when we’re working with them, they don’t forget why they’re here, they don’t forget that there might be something painful going on with them at that moment, but it becomes less important and there is something else to focus on.

When you work with these patients it sounds like it’s clearly more than just keeping them engaged while they’re here in the hospital. It sounds like you want to encourage them to be artists.

Spicer: Absolutely.

Lyons: It’s not like we say we want you to follow in our footsteps or become artists. Art, I think, is more than a profession. It can be a useful way to engage and communicate with people while they’re here.

Can you tell us a little about Gallery Night? Continue reading

Works by Rush Patients at Snow City’s Gallery Night

More than 200 works by 300 young artists — including several patients from Rush University Medical Center — will be showcased at Snow City Arts‘ 2010 Gallery Night on June 25. The event is at Floating World Gallery, 1925 N. Halsted St. in Chicago, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The show, called “What Bright Thread,” features photography, movies, visual arts, music and writing by young patients at Rush University Medical Center and other hospitals in the Chicago area. Tickets are available here.

Here’s a look a four works by artists from Rush.

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Patient Makes ‘Commercial’ About Rush Experience

It looks a little like one of those Rush Stories commercials. And with that classical cello music in the background, it kind of sounds like one, too.

But this is the work of 10-year-old Jervon A., who directed and starred in the video earlier this year while he was a patient at Rush University Medical Center.

“It was his vision from beginning to end,” said John Lyons, a filmmaker who worked with Jervon on his personal video.

Lyons is an artist-in-residence with the Snow City Arts Foundation, an award-winning program that teaches filmmaking, creative writing, music, painting and photography to children at Rush and other hospitals in the Chicago area.

Jervon was eager to make a video, Lyons said, and after some discussion they decided to focus on his time at Rush.

“He wrote the narration, and it really came from his experience here,” Lyons said.

In addition to the Snow City artists, Jervon talks about his nurse (“generous”), the food (“really good, especially the pancakes”), the activity lady from Rush’s Child Life Program and more.

“Rush Hospital is special to me,” Jervon concludes, “because I’m special to Rush.”