Ontario Arts Council Supports Artists in Residence (Health) Pilot Program

A New Collaboration Between the Arts and Health Care Providers in Ontario

TORONTO, Feb. 16 /CNW/ - The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has launched an Artists in Residence (Health) pilot program. This new initiative supports artist residencies within health care settings, connecting wellness and creativity. OAC will contribute up to $93,350 towards artists' costs for residencies in two designated health sites through 2010.

OAC's partners include the new North Bay Regional Health Centre slated for opening January 30, 2011, as well as The Four Villages Community Health Centre in Toronto. Partnering arts organizations are the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in North Bay and Toronto's Centre for Digital Storytelling. OAC's funds are directed to the artistic and living costs of the artists in residence. The arts organizations involved are working closely with both OAC and health care partners. Health care partners for their part, will provide artist space. No frontline health care costs are being diverted to this pilot.

OAC Outreach and Development Manager, Bushra Junaid notes "in our 2008 public consultations, we heard loud and clear that communities in Ontario support efforts to break down barriers and have the arts enhance not only our cultural spaces but our everyday lives as well."

    
    Arts Partners
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A northern Ontario artist will be selected for the first residency in North Bay. It is intended to help create the space and set the tone for the facility, and will take place in the summer of 2010 as the medical community moves into the new North Bay Regional Health Centre building. For the second residency, the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery will invite emerging and established Canadian or international artists to apply for two to three month residencies that will engage the health centre community through their work in visual, media or interdisciplinary arts. It will start as the facility opens its doors to the public in January 2011. This residency will actively promote interactions between artists, health workers, patients and visitors, as artists also undertake outreach activities such as talks, workshops and exhibitions, intended to increase artistic awareness within the community. A jury composed of regional practicing artists and healthcare professionals will select the artists. The project, dubbed "ArtsHealth North Residency" coincides with the launch of the hospital's state of the art facility, the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Deadlines for the second residency applications will be made available by the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in the spring of 2010.

In Toronto, the Centre for Digital Storytelling and The Four Villages Community Health Centre are collaborating on a six month-long video storytelling project that will capture two to five minute stories featuring community members of all ages and walks of life.

Artist Jennifer LaFontaine, has been selected to lead this project. "In a health centre," she says, "the transformative power of storytelling can be life-affirming and support people through processes of healing and understanding. It brings another layer of humanity to the institution, but at the same time, gives insight and voice to some of the critical issues facing clients at Four Villages. Our goal is to share these stories with dignity, and see how our digital storytelling practice can also expand within this community."

    
    Background
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The Artists in Residence (Health) pilot has been tailored to each community's needs. Both projects embody a unique way of bringing art and creativity to a health and wellness setting, and explore ways in which community engagement efforts can have a positive impact on the physical space and the community's experiences in that space.

As Dermot Wilson, Director/Curator at North Bay's W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery and a member of the North Bay Regional Health Centre's Art Committee, says "this program adds the artist and contemporary art to healing and recognizes that psychological well-being, creativity and the role of physical space are part of this process."

The North Bay partners formed a committee to develop and promote this residency initiative. "Our group includes architects, artists, doctors, nurses, dentists, and managers among others. We have all encountered unprecedented levels of support for the ArtsHealth North project. People in North Bay and across our region are committed to the "spirit" of the program. They feel that in this case art will make a quantifiable difference," says Wilson.

Artists in Residence (Health) is modeled on OAC's Artists in Residence (Education) program, which was launched in 2007-2008 and now counts five educational partners across Ontario.

    
    More on Arts and Health
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Interest in the connections between art and health has increased significantly in recent years, with arts funding agencies in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. exploring a range of arts and health initiatives. New

research publications such as Arts and Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice have also emerged. The growing body of evidence points to the positive impacts of integrating the arts into community health services.

A 2009 State of the Field Report: Arts in Healthcare by the U.S. based Society for Arts in Healthcare (SAH) notes that arts initiatives in health settings not only have the potential to improve patients' overall health, but also foster a host of other important effects, including greater treatment compliance and improved workplace conditions for health workers. New SAH evidence goes so far as to suggest that such creative initiatives are having a marked economic impact, by reducing patients' length of stay and ultimately, overall healthcare costs.

The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) is the province of Ontario's primary funding body for professional arts activity. Since 1963, OAC has played a vital role in promoting and assisting the development of the arts and artists for the enjoyment and benefit of Ontarians.

SOURCE Ontario Arts Council

For further information: For further information: Geneviève Vallerand, Communications Coordinator, Ontario Arts Council, (416) 969-7434, 1-800-387-0058, ext. 7434, gvallerand@arts.on.ca; Pat Stephens, Manager, Public Relations, North Bay Regional Health Centre, (705) 495-8127, stephp@nbgh.on.ca; Sandra Almeida, Director, Program and Community Initiatives, Four Villages Community Health Centre, (416) 604-0640, ext. 1077, sandra@4villages.on.ca; Dermot Wilson, Director, Curator, W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery, (705) 474-1944, dermot@kennedygallery.org; Jennifer LaFontaine, Toronto Region Director, Centre for Digital Storytelling, (416) 968-6989, jenlafontaine@storycentre.org

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