Take Charge

Five Questions With Visual Artist Claire Lipton About Arts In Medicine

April 04, 2018

Claire-Lipton-Arts-Medicine.jpg Claire Lipton, center, engages with a group during an art session.

The Arts in Medicine Program, which was one of the first to use healing arts in the healthcare field, is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. We sat down with Claire Lipton, a visual artist, to learn more about the unique program and the healing effects it has on our patients.

What encouraged you to pursue this career? 

Art has always provoked a lot of emotion for me. While studying art therapy at The University of Tampa, I learned how powerful art can be in helping someone to heal. It is a therapeutic tool that can be used to empower others. I'm fortunate enough to see how art uplifts here in the studio every day. 

What are some of the benefits of the Arts in Medicine Program? 

The Arts in Medicine Program is modeled after Expressive Arts. Expressive arts include movement, drama, music, and writing to foster personal growth and healing. Our goal is to encourage and empower each individual who comes into the studio. We believe that the mind, body, and spirit are all connected, especially in the healing process. Some of the benefits include relaxation, mental clarity, and lower stress levels. By engaging in spontaneous activities, patients become focused on "the now," relieving some of their anxiety. Being present, through movement or creation, allows us to focus on the mind and body, distracting from current stressors. When patients complete a project it gives them a sense of accomplishment. It gives patients a sense of self back that may have been lost. We like to keep a guest book in which patients can write about their experiences in the studio. The book is filled with comments of peace and relaxation. Some patients have even mentioned that the activity helped them forget they were at the clinic for a treatment. 

What are some different approaches used? 

Our goal is for each patient to feel empowered. Therefore, our approaches are designed to be inclusive rather than intimidating. Everyone has the ability to create, regardless of skill or previous experience. For example, one of our popular projects is "string art" which uses a piece of string dipped in ink as a drawing tool. Sometimes a blank piece of paper can be intimidating and actually more stressful for a patient. String art allows an individual to create something completely organic. Once the ink dries, watercolors can be used to turn the design into anything the artist chooses. The best part about the project is that there is no "right or wrong" way to do it, each design is completely unique. Another common practice we use is Shibashi, a gentle form of movement. The practice can help open airways, allow for deep breathing, and relaxation. These techniques can be done standing, sitting, or even just observing. We also have Certified Music Practitioners, who play for patients in our lobbies, studios, and even at the bedside.  

Origami CraneIs there one project that’s a particular favorite?

My personal favorite is our origami healing cranes. As the story goes, a Japanese family was sitting in the Infusion Center folding cranes. It occurred for several days in a row, so someone went over and asked the reason behind the practice. The family said that in Japan, the crane is a symbol of peace and healing. It is a tradition to fold a thousand cranes for healing. They explained that the number a thousand is chosen because the number is too large to actually count. The idea is to continue to fold until healing occurs, allowing it to become a mindfulness practice. The Arts in Medicine Program was profoundly moved by the story and decided to adopt the cranes into our own program. All of our cranes have a healing message written inside, or on the wing, of the crane. The crane is then placed somewhere it is "seen a thousand times." Each time a patient passes the crane, it reminds them of their intention of healing. At one point, the Arts in Medicine Program actually folded a thousand cranes in honor of the story.

What are different resources available for patients and caregivers?

Through the Arts in Medicine Program, patients, families, and caregivers can get involved by attending any open art studio location. We have studios at the Magnolia and McKinley campuses and music is available at all three locations. Additionally, in-patients can request a visit from a visual artist or musician. We are able to go into patient rooms and offer a complete experience at the patient's bedside. We host several special events throughout the year, including a new monthly series, Music & Art à La Carte.

At the Magnolia campus, our Healing Arts Gallery features exhibits of patient artwork and poetry. The gallery is located on the first floor near Radiation Therapy.

For more information on studio locations, times and events please click here

Five Questions With is an occasional series featuring Moffitt team members, patients, and volunteers.