Art as “Journeys through Health” (27.10.18)
Last Thursday night I was very happy to attend the “vernissage” or opening of a public art show, at the hospital where I receive out-patient treatment for a rare disease. It’s the second year of an “annual community-based visual arts exhibition offering a space of reflection for all the patients, families, caregivers, and healthcare staff who are touched by illness”.(1)
This initiative was brought to life by the McGill Students’ Society’s Humanities and Arts in Medicine (McHAM), a group of medical students who “felt that the arts were the bridge”(2) between patients and healthcare professionals.
Research had shown that “students entering medical school score high on empathy, but that by fourth year their empathy levels had plummeted”(2). And these students:
“believe that the arts and humanities portray a side of medicine and the experience of illness, suffering, and healing that is not contained in the medical curriculum.
What the arts and humanities can offer is to immerse us in the perspectives of people who we might otherwise find difficult to understand, challenge our assumptions and pre-conceived notions of groups of people and disease, and remind us of the beauty and complexity of human experience.”(3)
The student-organizers plan to have a new theme for each edition of Journeys Through Health: An Art Exhibition, and to display the artworks in a different hospital among the many included in the McGill University Health Centre.
This year the artworks are on display at the Montreal General Hospital (MGH). This photo shows only some of the 29 works that are on display this year. This is the main hallway of the hospital; it’s as though they put a museum into the busiest part of the hospital!
The theme for the 2018-2019 exhibition, on display from now through May 2019, is ‘New Beginnings’; the “transformative potential of illness and healing, and how these experiences can act as a catalyst for personal rebirth and empowerment”.(1)
So it’s about how a healthcare journey can create a new perspective, or lead to a positive change in a person’s life. And one of my smartphone pics was – amazingly! – selected for this display (see Art + Health for details). It’s the smartphone pic of yellow flowers, and the image that I’ve used as the image for this post:
To give you an idea of how well this exposition worked, as a bridge between patients and others within healthcare, here are some of the people I had conversations with during the vernissage – as one of the artists:
- A woman who works in administration at the Montreal General Hospital, and a few of her colleagues; her painting is of a meditation pond
- Several clinicians & researchers who visited the exhibition, and were interested in CRPS (my rare disease)
- A long talk with a PhD student and researcher in cellular neurobiology & ophthalmology, about what directions his future research might take; his painting is the first one (far right) in my photo of the exposition above
- The lovely grandmother of one of the medical students who organized the event; a very welcome attendee ‘-)
- A professional fabric artist, who’s also a caregiver; one of her paintings was on display
- One of the medical students who helped organize the event; her gorgeous quilling (curled & formed paper) is 5th from the right in my photo of the exposition (above)
- A retired psychotherapist, whose work is a mixed media collage & painting
- Another professional artist, whose creation used a Japanese technique involving boiling & cooking plant matter to be integrated into his artwork
- Several of the non-student organizers of the art exhibition
- A lengthy 2-part conversation with a former patient, of the same pain clinic where I’m now a patient, about the difficulties of living with an invisible disease. His painting is the third from right in my photo of the exposition (above)
- Any many, many other whose names I simply can’t recall
Thank you so much to the organizers, to the jury (selection committee), and to everyone else who was involved in creating such a fantastic bridge between all the different members of this large & diverse healthcare & health research community that makes up the MUHC.
(1) Journeys Through Health: An Art Exhibition. Blog. Undated. Accessed 27 Oct 2018:
For more information, visit the Journeys through Health: An Art Exhibition website
(2) Anne Lagacé Dowson. Art that heals. McGill Reporter. McGill University. 11 Jul 2018. Web. Accessed 27 Oct 2018:
(3) MSS Humanities and Arts in Medicine (McHAM). McGill Medical Student Society. 11 Jul 2018. Webpage. Accessed 27 Oct 2018: