Spotlight on Olivia Woodford, Health Arts Network at Duke Coordinator

The Health Arts Network at Duke (HAND) had held an employee art show for 30 years before being introduced to the National Arts Program® in 2008. Olivia Woodford, the Director for HAND, attended the Society for Arts in Healthcare Conference where she learned about the NAP. She knew instantly that there was an opportunity for partnership. Olivia had already been working on developing models for use of the arts as a tool for health and well-being for twenty five years, so the incredible benefits of a program such as ours were clear to her immediately.

Olivia Woodford

Through HAND, Olivia is able to support the emotional and spiritual needs of the Duke community through literary, performing and visual arts programming. With her passion for the arts and a participant base of 100,000 employees the show was an immediate success! We are so please to Spotlight Olivia Woodford this month and after three years coordinating a wonderful employee exhibit, here were her thoughts…
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on by HAND at Duke University?
A. Of the 60 exhibits that Health Arts Network at Duke provides through the medical center in its galleries, the Duke Employee Art Show sponsored by NAP is the most anticipated exhibit each year.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. The show is a powerful community-building experience that celebrates the imagination, artistry and creativity of Duke employees. It showcases artwork they created with their hands and imagination. Colleagues are able to see and appreciate another side of their coworkers. A sense of pride emerges amongst all the employees for the creativity and talent that exists within the Duke community as a whole.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. Patients and their loved ones have expressed that seeing art by employees helps them feel that the hospital is less an institution and more of a community of people that care for each other.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in the hospital is so important?
A. Displaying employee artwork helps to humanize the hospital environment and the patient experience.  When we create art, we are taking something internal, something not readily visible, tangible or quantifiable and we shape it into a poem, a dance, a painting, a sculpture…in short, a piece of art. This artwork then holds the musings of our heart – be it our dreams, desires, feelings, values, yearnings, or impressions. Art emerges from a conversation with our heart and the artwork is the shape and voice of what has stirred through this dialogue. The artwork then, existing outside of us, becomes a mirror in which we can view ourselves. By sharing this art, we provide an avenue for people to view what lives within us. Remarkably, what I have experienced again and again is that when the artwork is shared, all who view have an experience of a shared heart and there is a validation and acknowledgment in the strength, beauty and creativity of the human spirit.
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 began my career in the theatre. In my early twenties I performed at The Huntington Theatre in Boston. Rehearsal after rehearsal I would sit in the audience and look up at the proscenium arch . Across the top of the arch was carved a quote from Shakespeare, “As ‘twer to hold a mirror up to nature.” I have contemplated this quote throughout my career as an artist and arts administrator.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. The recent addition of the online registration process is one example of this. Making the registration process easier provides the employee artist one less reason for why they should not take the leap, join the show and share the makings and musing and creation of their heart.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. I have nothing but high praise for the National Arts Program® in its recognition in the extraordinary gift of having employees sharing their creativity within the environment where they work. And beyond this recognition, the National Arts Program® is dedicated to making it happen and to making improvements to have the organizations and artists they serve have the best experience possible.