Susan (Sue) Kett had always been a dedicated supporter of her local hospital, but it wasn’t until she started researching opportunities to help her close friend / art teacher exhibit her work that she became more aware of how hospitals utilize art programs to enhance their healing environment. With this new found knowledge of how to combine two of her passions, she attended her first Society for Arts in Healthcare conference in 2010 where she discovered the existence of the National Arts Program®. Although Sue was not currently working for the hospital, she had chaired numerous events and knew right away that the healthcare community would greatly benefit from the addition of an employee art exhibit like the NAP.
Starting out as a consultant under the guidance of the Spiritual Care Services Department, one of Sue’s first major projects was bringing the NAP to AMITA Health (known as Adventist Midwest Health at the time). As she expected, the first show was a tremendous success featuring close to 200 pieces of art. As a result of the continued success of the program over the next few years, a Healing Arts Program was developed at the hospital. With Sue’s leadership, the Healing Arts Program seeks to provide employees with a creative outlet demonstrating how the arts can be used to offset the stress often associated with their demanding positions making the NAP a perfect fit.
The NAP is extremely fortunate to have Sue coordinating our AMITA Health show. She not only understands the benefits displaying personal artwork can bring to both employees and patients, she is a true advocate for the use of arts in healthcare.
Here is what she had to say about the National Arts Program® ...
Q. How did you hear about the National Arts Program®?
A. I attended a Society for the Arts in Healthcare conference in San Francisco sponsored by Stanford and met with some representatives at the conference. At that time, I was not working for the hospital, but had close ties with them as an auxiliary member and had chaired many events on their behalf. As an artist, I could visualize the potential of a Healing Arts Program. I felt that a National Arts Program exhibit would be the perfect way to promote & initiate an arts program in our region of hospitals. Immediately after being hired to start the Healing Arts Program, I contacted NAP in the hope of establishing a relationship that would bring this wonderful opportunity to our hospitals. I am most grateful for NAP’s continuing support.
Q. What prompted you to join the National Arts Program® and bring this opportunity to the employees and their family members?
A. As we began to initiate the Healing Arts Program, I felt it would be a powerful way to introduce the power of art to our staff and to engage them in the process. The NAP show enables us to share this wonderful opportunity with all people working at the hospital and it has proven to be a meaningful experience for participants as well as those who work in our facilities and enjoy the beauty it brings to the environment. The Healing Arts Program has grown and gained acceptance as a result of this wide reaching opportunity.
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different from any other exhibit at AMITA Health?
A. The NAP Exhibit is offered by the Healing Arts Program, which is part of the Spiritual Care Services department. We believe that the practice of creating art is healing and also supports our mission. Our region of hospitals looks forward to this exhibit because it provides all of our employees, volunteers, physicians and their family members with a unique opportunity to share their talents with their colleagues as well as our patients and their family members. People come to know one another a bit better as they share this part of their identity with one another. The hospital becomes a more inviting environment and all find themselves discovering new favorites as they walk through the hallways adorned with art during the show. We have other exhibits offered through the Healing Arts Program, but they are not as large and inclusive incorporating participants from so many hospitals at one time.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. It provides AMITA Health with a wonderful opportunity to honor our employees and to encourage their artistic pursuits. Over the past 4-5 years, we have observed the growth of many participants who welcome the chance to participate each year. By being a part of an annual exhibit, artists are encouraged to continue the creative process. Participants continue to work on art they will be proud to display. The hospital is filled with beautiful art to welcome patients and their families. Art changes the feeling of the environment and engages all to interact with something lovely while they are here. Fear, anxiety and sadness can all be a part of their inner feelings, but art can sooth the soul and create a lovely diversion and can even provide hope in the midst of challenging times.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork in the hospital?
A. It has become an event that is met with much anticipation and enthusiasm! They now know that it is something special and look forward to the NAP show as participants, parents or grandparents of participants, or staff that will be enjoying the art for the duration of the show. All win and seem to appreciate the opportunity to partner with The National Arts Program® to bring this opportunity to our region of hospitals.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in this setting is so important?
A. Hospitals care for people when they face life’s greatest challenges as well as many of their greatest joys. There is much emotion wrapped up in a hospital stay. I feel we use art to nurture those who come to us for their care in a variety of ways. The NAP show changes the environment from the moment they enter our doors and provides a warm welcome which puts people at ease and provides opportunities to observe a wide variety of interpretations of the world and its beauty. This enables them to feel peace, hope, joy or a variety of other emotions as they interact with the exhibit. Our mission is to “Extend the Healing Ministry of Jesus” and we honestly feel that this exhibit provides us with a unique opportunity to fulfill our mission.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. The Opening Reception is a very special evening. I welcome the opportunity to honor all participants with a very special event and to thank their family members who provide the necessary support to encourage them to pursue the arts. I feel it is very important to validate them and acknowledge that the creation of art is a “big deal” and as humans we were designed to be creative. It is my opportunity to thank them for contributing to the creation of a very special exhibit that will be enjoyed and appreciated by many people over the coming months.
Q. Is coordinating the NAP exhibit something that would fall into your daily job responsibilities? If not, how is it different?
A. Yes. I install many exhibits throughout the course of the year. Our believe is that they enable us to honor people and to create a healing and uplifting environment. The NAP exhibit is by far the largest and most inclusive show in our hospitals.
Q. Do visitors to the hospital respond to the employee exhibit?
A. Yes, I constantly receive positive comments! Our Volunteers escort most patients to their destination. They frequently comment saying it is uplifting and also provides them with an opportunity to share the artwork with them as they travel through the hallways. It is really missed when we take it all down.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. It is a wonderful tool that enables me to focus on the other necessary details. Many potential mistakes are avoided and it is very helpful to be able to merge the data into the certificates and labels and to personally design the way I would like my spreadsheets to appear all based on the data entered by the artists.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. Art has enriched my life in countless ways. It has provided me with a reason to look for the beauty that surrounds me every day. I am a painter and have also enjoyed doing photography with my family members. When pursuing the arts, my mind is engaged and challenged. I love the process and feel a peace which otherwise is absent from my life. I am challenged and persevere to ensure that I am pleased with the end product and I am often delighted with the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete a piece. I love artists and their hearts and their willingness to share their deepest thoughts and emotions through art. In this position, I am able to encourage others in this meaningful pursuit of the arts and that is extremely satisfying to me.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts?
A. I began painting when my oldest child entered school full time. I fell into the very capable and loving hands of a painting teacher who brought this world to life for me. We were very close and she generously taught me classical painting methods and much about life. I painted for many years, sold some work, did portrait commissions and also began to teach in my home. It was at that time that I personally discovered the power of the arts. I observed the difference it could make in a life to have an artistic identity and voice. Diane, my beloved teacher, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at 57 years of age and at that time I was looking for places for her to display and sell her work. I heard about a local hospital which displayed artist’s work and I began to investigate on her behalf. I became more aware of art programs in hospitals and shortly thereafter attended my first Society for the Arts in Healthcare conference. That experience made it clear to me that I needed to bring my passion for the arts to the local hospital I had supported for many years. The Spiritual Care Services Department took me under their wing and supported me every step of the way as we used art to promote healing and to further our mission, “The extend the healing ministry of Jesus.”
Q. Are you an artist yourself? If so, what is your favorite medium or subject? Did you enter the NAP show?
A. I am primarily a painter but have come to also enjoy photography. This year I submitted both an oil painting and a photograph. I participate each year.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc?
A. This program honors and validates the talents of our staff, encourages them in their artistic pursuits while enabling us to create a beautiful environment for all to enjoy. There is great power in what you do and we look forward to participating for many years to come. I am forever grateful to each of you and your continuing efforts to make this available to AMITA Health.