Grace Serra is a Detroit artist who has worked as a public art coordinator and art educator for almost thirty years. In 2004 she began the Children's Hospital of Michigan Healing Arts Program and continues to head it today as the Art Advisor. Grace became interested in the National Arts Program® after hearing about us through the Society for the Arts in Healthcare in 2006. It didn’t take long for her to decide that the program was a great fit for her Healing Arts Program and their first NAP show was scheduled for March 2007.
Grace has always worked hard to produce a beautiful exhibit that truly honors those that participate. She has a remarkable passion for her work and she shines as one of the NAP’s most dedicated coordinators. This year marks Grace’s sixth anniversary coordinating the show. Read on to hear her comments on the program and its purpose…
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on at Children’s Hospital of Michigan?
A. The difference between this exhibit and others that we have here at the hospital is that everyone at Children’s Hospital is a stakeholder in this show. The art in this exhibit is either created by our patients, our colleagues, our family member’s or us. It is a show that brings us all together. It is a show that I always receive more comments about than other art exhibits mounted at the hospital. This is the one that is by far the most popular.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. A Pediatric hospital is a very high stress environment. Our staff is often confronted with challenges everyday that are unimaginable. Many of them make art in their spare time as a form of therapy. This exhibition may be their only opportunity to showcase the work that they do in their free time. Their colleagues are always very excited and supportive to see the work on display in the hospital. It provides them with a glimpse into the lives of their coworkers that they do not get to see at work each day. I am so impressed by the pride that our staff takes in the work in this exhibition.
I am also very moved by their pride in seeing their patients artwork displayed side by side with staff and family artwork. This provides them with a better understanding about who their patients are as well, they are not just their illness, but they are multifaceted individual with varied interests and talents. I think it is also very rewarding for them to see their patients thrive and be creative, despite the challenges they face each day.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. They take this exhibition very serious and are very excited to have the opportunity. I think they are equally as proud to show case the works of family members, as they are their own.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in the hospital is so important?
A. Our Healing Arts Program's mission is to improve the healthcare experience for patients, families and caregivers by integrating the arts into the hospital setting. Research provides evidence that the integration of art into healthcare facilities assists in the reduction of stress and improved outcomes, patient safety and overall healthcare quality. The NAP exhibition perfectly fits into this mission by providing Children’s Hospital of Michigan the opportunity to showcase a wide ranges of diverse artwork done by both children and adults. It also encourages the practice of art making among those in our community as well. Research also reveals that there are health benefits associated with art making process.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. I love having the opportunity to meet our staff, our patients and their families. As art advisor for the hospital, I do not have direct patient care responsibilities and don't always have the chance to meet everyone that works here. This show has given me a chance to get to know alot of people and has helped me to do my job better. By meeting these people, I have a better understanding of who they are and what they do, and it helps me understand how to serve them better.
I also love the award ceremony, and having the chance to see how excited participants are to receive their awards or just a certificate of participation; and to have their picture taken with our hospital president is also very exciting for them. Our doctors who participate are as thrilled as our youngest patients to be recognized for the work they have in the show.
This year I hung the show on a Saturday with two students. Hanging a show of this scale (with all works different sizes and different types of frames) is challenging; but it was all worth while when a doctor delivered, in a wheel chair, her work and all her families work (her spouse, her children and her two parents) for the show. She said “thank you so much for doing this”…..all of a sudden it didn’t feel challenging, it felt like a privilege to be doing it.
Q. Do visitors to the hospital respond to the employee exhibit?
A. People stop me all the time to tell me how much they enjoy the show. When I am hanging the artwork or placing the ribbons on the work, everyone stops to talk to me about the work.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. This is the first year we have used it and it was great. I think a lot of people are more comfortable doing this and it's easier for them.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. I look at artwork much differently because of this show. As a visual artist and former gallery director, I was trained to have a critical eye and to think about art in a professional way. This show has given me a new respect for all levels of skill and all types of artwork. I am humbled by the generosity of spirit that the artists have who enter the show. It is not about them, it is about sharing something special with those who come to the hospital each day.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I am a visual artist by training; I received my BFA at Wayne State University in Detroit and my MFA at the Dominican University in Florence, Italy (both in painting). I have worked in the field of public art and art education since 1985. I began Children’s Hospital’s Healing Arts Program in 2004. I love being able to bring my passion for art into a world where it makes a difference in the lives of people on a daily basis at times in their lives when they need it the most.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. I am very grateful to the NAP for continuing to support this exhibition each year. It is wonderful for our hospital morale and provides us with great beauty each year. I am always singing your praise and encourage other hospitals and organizations to participate.