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Artists Lend a Healing Hand at Capital Health

by Mary Galioto

The healing effect of art and artistic creation on mind and body has long been recognized by artists.

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Local artist, Jane Zamost, is helping bring this type of healing locally, as a member of the Art and Healing Committee at Capital Health. Zamost has helped establish the “Healing Hands Art Cart,” an artist volunteer project at the hospital’s Hopewell campus, that provides art supplies as well as artistic guidance and inspiration to patients on almost every floor from pediatric to adult, surgical, oncology, and cardiology.

The program started last summer with one single volunteer, a high school student with a passion for art therapy. And from her participation, the program has grown.


From painting, sketching, charcoals, crayons, colored pencils, embroidery, knitting, quilting, collaging, string art, to jewelry-making, the art cart aims to bring healing art as well as company to patients throughout the hospital.

“There’s a story. There’s communication talking about art,” said Zamost.

The volunteers offer patients a chance to explore their own artistic creativity, learn new techniques and take their minds off of pain they may be experiencing. And when the patient is too sick or not up to creating his or her own art, volunteers can create while the patient watches.

IMG_9361“Our nursing staff reports that during the time the artist volunteer with the art cart is on the floor, there are fewer bells lit, meaning that there is actually less pain medication administered,” said Linda Martin-Mills, RN, Guest Relations Manager. “We’re already seeing the benefits.”

Zamost shared a story about a patient she met recently.

“This patient said she had never painted before — not even as a child,” said Zamost. “So I showed her different types of brushes, talked a bit about paint and showed few simple painting techniques. I left the patient with a few pieces of paper and a canvas and, when I came back an hour later, the patient had filled them all with remarkable art. But better than that — she looked happy. She confided in me, ‘This has changed me.’ That’s what the art cart is about.”

At Capital Health, patients and visitors are surrounded by art in temporary exhibits as well as permanent mural installations.

“We have a long history of art in the hospital,” said Nancy Goodwin, Capital Health Director of Volunteer Services . “There are 400 pieces in the permanent collection. And our art gallery features a new exhibit every 3 months.”

The program is looking for more volunteers and hopes to staff the art cart every day. Zamost says that she comes for 2 1/2 to 3 hours but volunteers are not constrained to a prescribed shift.

“We’re looking for artistic people, of all types of artistic backgrounds including music, who can interact with patients’ needs with sensitivity,” said Zamost. “This is about art and healing, and it is about conversation too.”

For more information about this program and how to volunteer, please contact Nancy Goodwin, Director of Volunteer Services at 609-303-4023. You can also check out the Capital Health volunteer website along with the volunteer application. To donate art supplies, please contact the Office of Development at 609-303-4121.

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