Evoking Spirit: Healing With the Arts

Shanti Norris
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In traditional systems of medicine around the world, practitioners found that if they first sought to safeguard the soul, rather then the body, the body and whole person tended to respond better. In one tradition, when a person falls ill, the shaman would ask: When did you stop telling your story, when did you stop going into the silence and when did you stop singing? The arts having always been used to reclaim the spirit and open the door to healing.

Case studies from ten years of innovative programs for people with cancer, and other serious illness, caregivers and medical professionals will be presented, including works created as well as results of a recent evaluation of an inner city hospital artist-in-residence program. A groundbreaking multi-cultural arts program at Washington, DC's only black hopsital, the only one of its kind, will be highlighted. Presentation will also include descriptions (and visual imagery) of an alternative Healing Art Gallery, and hospital art space as well as presentations of community centered programs using the arts for people with cancer. Projects include visual, written, spoken word, dance and musical arts.

Keywords: Art as Healing, Healing Arts, Arts in Healthcare, Shamanism and the Arts, Transformation and the Arts
Stream: Art in Communities, Audiences, Arts Education, Meaning and Representation, Art and Human Rights
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Shanti Norris

Executive Director, Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts

Shanti Norris began her education as an art student at Cooper Union in New York City and worked with artist Peter Max. She worked for many years in sales management and education for a European pharmaceutical company, and as vice president of a medical software company. Throughout her career in holistic health, she has utilized the arts, primarily photography, filmmaking and visual arts. For the past ten years, Ms. Norris has served as Executive Director of Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts, a small visionary non-profit that promotes the arts in healing programs for people with cancer, caregivers and medical professionals in Washington, DC. Ms. Norris implemented a successful artist-in-residence program into three Washington, DC hospital centers, offering the arts at bedside to an underserved population. Smith Farm provides an art center/art space at their facility in Washington, DC where people facing health issues can explore every manner of visual, music, written and other arts as a part of their healing process. Shanti is a member of the CARRA Program at the National Cancer Institute where she serves as a patient advocate. She chaired the 2004 Society for the Arts in Healthcare National Conference in Washington, DC and sits on the board of that organization. She is a founding member of the ArtConnection and a member of Art Table.

Ref: A06P0343