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Louisville VA Medical Center

 

Healing With Art

Volunteers from Arts in Healing and Robley Rex VAMC Voluntary Service Specialist Rhonda Parero teach African Drumming to Veterans during a special class hosted by Arts in Healing.  Photo by Robley Rex VAMC Staff Photographer Tom Downs.

Volunteers from Arts in Healing and Robley Rex VAMC Voluntary Service Specialist Rhonda Parero teach African Drumming to Veterans during a special class hosted by Arts in Healing. Photo by Robley Rex VAMC Staff Photographer Tom Downs.

By Laura Schafsnitz, Robley Rex VAMC Public Affairs Specialist
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Volunteers Provide a Different Kind of Therapy for Veterans at Robley Rex VAMC

Going to the hospital isn’t always about going to the doctor, getting a prescription, and then going home to pop some pills.  Sometimes, healing comes in a different form; an artistic form.  As the VA continues moving forward with a more proactive, progressive, and patient centered approach to taking care of  Veterans’ minds, bodies and souls, partnerships with volunteer organizations such as Arts in Healing become key.

“Arts in Healing is a program under the direction of the Kentucky Center for the Arts,” says Robley Rex Voluntary Service Specialist Rhonda Parero. “They are a team of volunteers with various artistic abilities including music and visual arts.”

Run by the Kentucky Center for the Arts, Arts in Healing started as a pilot program in 2009, and was quite successful.  Currently, Arts in Healing partners with 11 organizations throughout the Louisville area, and began volunteering at Robley Rex VAMC in 2011.

Through the Arts in Healing project, local artists have an opportunity to provide hands-on experiences in a variety of arts for patients.  Arts in Healing Director Kristen Hughes says, each program is different, depending on the needs of the site or the patients.  She also says that the experiences volunteers provide for Veterans at Robley Rex are unique for the volunteers in a very special way.

“Our work at the VA Hospital is some of the most powerful work that we do,” Hughes says.  “We currently put in 43 hours a month. That includes music in the lobbies, hospice and chemotherapy, as well as visual art, drumming, poetry writing and music in both the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment units.  We also provide artists for Hospice Memorial Services, the Women’s Open House and other special events in the hospital and clinics, including group settings for OEF/OIF/OND Veterans.”

Hughes says the main point of classes and performances provided by Arts in Healing volunteers is to get folks out of a common ‘I can’t do art’ mindset and into a non-judgmental artistic experience simply by being creative.

“By engaging in creativity, patients are able to relax, express difficult emotions, and find new ways of getting in touch with themselves while having fun during very stressful times.  Because it is not therapy, it is not outcome driven work; its function is to engage people in the pure joy of creativity.”

Historically, the VA has taken progressive approach to healthcare which includes incorporating alternative and holistic methods into their treatment plans.  Because of this, Hughes says that initiating a partnership with Robley Rex seemed like the right thing to do.

“Researching the relationship of arts in the military and the VA, one finds a wealth of history and precedent.  I met with Voluntary Services, told them what we wanted to do and received overwhelming support.”

“We are very committed to continuing our partnership with Robley Rex,” Hughes says, “and to continue providing community involvement and engagement with those who have served our country; to help bring the healing power of creativity to those who have experienced extreme destruction both internally and externally.”

Arts in Healing performers perform in various lobbies and clinics throughout Robley Rex VAMC and its facilities.  For a full schedule for this month, or to find out how you and your organization can help the VA continue taking a proactive, progressive, patient centered approach towards the care of the mind, body, and souls of our Veterans through volunteering, contact the Robley Rex Voluntary Service Office at 502-287-6898 or rhonda.parero@va.gov.

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