The Art of Being Well: Highlights of the Museum's Programs for Wellbeing

Zachary G. Jacobs, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine Division of Hospital Medicine Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Coat of Arms, Graphic Design. "First published in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine.

Ashton Cozart, University of Oregon Student-Athlete, Football. Untitled. Acrylics on Paper

The Art of Being Well: Highlights of the Museum's Programs for Wellbeing

June 24, 2023 to February 11, 2024

Each year, the JSMA’s Art Heals program serves diverse audiences both locally on campus and throughout Oregon. The current exhibition on view in the Education Corridor Galleries includes a sample of over 30 works of art created both in-person and remotely during Art Heals sessions over the 2022-23 academic year.

Participants engaged in art expression workshops centering around themes of positionality through self-portraits and self-portraits as a tree. Some of the artists used for inspiration were Kehinde Wiley, Joan Mitchell, Charles Burchfield, Rick Bartow, and Hung Liu. The 90-minute Art Heals workshops were led by Lisa Abia-Smith, Dr. Elizabeth Lahti, and Karla Chambers and offered participants a dedicated time experimenting with materials and finding avenues for self-expression and decompressing.

Some of the self-portraits were created by medical professionals who participated in a 3-week Narrative Medicine Facilitator training in October and November 2022. For the third year in a row, Lisa Abia-Smith and Dr. Grace Haynes were asked to serve as facilitators and guide participants through body-mapping exercises and prompts focusing on the obstacles they face as medical care providers and their own self-care. The self-portraits on display were created by physicians as they processed their own identities and positions as both healers and sometimes patients.

The other self-portraits in the exhibition were created in Art Heals workshops designed for hospice volunteers from Samaritan Evergreen Hospice in Corvallis and adults living with cancer participating in the Transformation Cancer Support Group at Samaritan Pastega Cancer Resource Center. The final group represented here are UO students and student-athletes, many of whom were incoming freshman at the time navigating the responsibilities of being a college student and the pressure of being a NCAA Division I student athlete.

Although these groups represent different ages and stages of life, the common thread that connects all of them is visible in this exhibition. It is the value that the arts can provide when navigating illness, anxiety, and stress, by providing a respite. Art Heals works across the State of Oregon and locally to provide a facilitated space for self-care and letting go.