My adventures in Florida

Florida is a real place of contrasts! It's bizarre that the weather is so very hot and yet you go inside and freeze because all of the buildings are icily air conditioned (at least to me). Florida is an amazing place though. I've spent a wonderful few days with the Shands @ University of Florida Arts in Medicine (AIM) team, who are an amazing bunch of people doing extraordinary work. My first day I was instructed to meet Tina Mullen, the Program Director by the "Healing Wall" in the foyer of the hospital. Wondering if I would miss the spot (the campus is absolutely enormous!), I walked in thru the main entrance and there I was, facing this absolutely amazing tiled wall, made up of individual hand painted tiles, that had been created by the AIM team and patients. It gave the entrance such an aura of peace and reflection, even in the face of people rushing about (as happens in hospitals). As I sat there waiting for Tina (I was better believe it!) I watched as people stopped and looked, some momentarily, some for a few minutes and some people actually sat down and studied the contributions that make up the wall.

The Healing Wall sets the tone for much of the visual art displayed throughout the hospital and more impressively, the works are created by partnerships between patients and the AIM artists in residence. As Mary Lisa Kitakis Spano (the Artist Coordinator) is a visual artist and builds amazing mosaics, there are mosaic installations everywhere..........I've never seen such beautiful lift waiting areas, all decorated with mosaics of different materials, telling different stories and honoring the partnership between patients, artists and health professionals, that is integral to a healthy hospital environment. I was so fortunate to spend time with Mary Lisa and Sibet doing an art workshop in the paediatric unit and loved watching the sheer joy on the faces of these very sick kids as they focused intently on painting their canvases. Tina, Kris Sullivan and the lovely Jill Sonke took me out for lunch (which was a real treat) and this gave me an opportunity to talk to them all about the history and scope of the AIM program at Shands. It was great to catch up with both Jill and Kris as they were the ones who facilitated my visit, so I'm very grateful to them! Later in the day, Adria Klausner took me to the Mother/Baby Unit where I got to see her working at the bedside with mums who may spend the bulk of their pregnancies in the hospital. She helps engage them in all sorts of art and craft activities and carries all of her gear around on an "art cart", so everything is very portable. Finally I met Paula Patterson, the Dramatist in Residence (who is also very persuasive........more about that later) who took me to the very top of the hospital and toured me around, demonstrating her bedside artwork with patients. I must say I was exhausted when I got back to the hotel........I think I walked a million miles, but at the time I didn't really notice, because the beauty of the work surrounding me on the walls, on the ceilings and in the lift waiting areas, totally distracted me......I understand why this has such a positive impact on the patients......and staff! Photo of the Healing Wall

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