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Arts Council of Princeton's Creative Aging Program

Arts Council of Princeton's Creative Aging Program
Nurse Manager Rebecca Godofsky and Arts Council artist Eva Mantell in UMCPP’s ACE Unit, before Hetty Baiz’s painting, Flight.

One might not expect to have a conversation about Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night, at your bedside during a stay at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP). However, this is just the kind of experience a recent partnership between the UMCPP and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Creative Aging Program is offering on a weekly basis.

 

Supported in part by a grant from the Community Connection of Princeton Healthcare, the Arts Council provides a specially-trained artist to engage patients and their visitors with arts appreciation and hands-on activities. Arts Council teaching artist Eva Mantell has, since 2011, served as the “travelling museum and art school” in the hospital’s ACE (Acute Care for the Elderly) and other units.

 

Asked to describe the impact of her visits, Mantell responded: “I measure the impact of the program one patient at a time, and many are visibly pleased to have some time for a topic that is uplifting, reflective and that has the potential to speak to the core of who we are. Even for people without any training in the arts, great images can transport them to another place, another time, and can be the springboard for the imagination and for memories. I have found that many are pleasantly surprised that the program exists at all. I have seen patients sit up a little straighter, laugh and share a memory or two that the art seems to awake in them.   I would say patient by patient this is having a positive impact on mood, alertness, and on increasing something intangible which I might call inspiration.”

 

The opportunity for patients, and their families, to look at and maybe even create a work of art in a hospital room is part and parcel of the Design for Healing initiative in the new Plainsboro facility. Carol Norris-Smith, Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs, remarked, "Many patients and families have told us that they find the artist-at-the-bedside visits calming and inspiring.  These interactive visits with Eva add another dimension to our Art for Healing program, which includes nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other pieces of art that have been carefully chosen and placed throughout the hospital.  We began the program because research has shown that art can play a role in healing, shorter length of stays, less anxiety and pain, and greater levels of patient satisfaction. Community members have been very generous and have funded nearly all of the Art for Healing program -- in addition to funding one-third of our new hospital." 

For the Arts Council of Princeton, the partnership with Community Connections and the UMCPP is an important building block in the development of a sustainable Creative Aging Program.  Established in 2010, the program involves training artists, family and professional caregivers to utilize the creative arts with seniors at all levels of the health spectrum, while at the same time actively engaging with local seniors both at the hospital, in residence at Princeton Community Housing’s Harriet Bryan House, and at a weekly drop-in class for caregivers held at the Arts Council’s Paul Robeson Center. Plans are also in the works to offer arts engagement training as continuing education credit for nurses and home health care workers affiliated with Princeton Healthcare.

 

The Arts Council’s Creative Aging Program was inspired by the shifting demographics of the population, and by compelling research into the positive connection between the creative arts and the aging process by the late Dr. Gene Cohen and others. In February 2012, the Arts Council of Princeton was one of only three sites in the US to host a dedicated training for teaching artists to work with older populations. Funded by the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the trainings resulted in the development of a Teaching Artists Toolkit, which will be launched on the NCCA’s website in late June (http://www.creativeaging.org/programs-people/teaching-artists-toolkit). Mantell’s unique approach is specifically profiled in this toolkit, which is intended for a nationwide audience. Additional funding for the Arts Council’s creative aging program has be provided by Church & Dwight and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

 

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP), founded in 1967, is a non-profit organization with a mission of Building Community through the Arts. Housed in the landmark PaulRobesonCenter for the Arts, the ACP fulfills its mission by presenting a wide range of programs including exhibitions, performances, free community cultural events, and studio-based classes and workshops in the visual, performing and literary arts. Arts Council of Princeton programs are designed to be high-quality, engaging, affordable and accessible for the diverse population in the greater Princeton region.

For more information about Community Connection, please contact Sonia Patel at 609.897.8993. For more information about the Creative Aging program at the Arts Council of Princeton, please contact Maria Evans at (609) 924-8777 or mevans@artscounciloprinceton.org.

 

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