Healing is an art in the Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Healing is an art in the Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” A doctor’s prescription or the latest orthopedic surgery technique seem like great ways to treat an ailment ” but listening to a cello piece or painting with watercolors?

Music and artwork are both ways the Vail Valley Medical Center aims to help both its staff and patients relieve stress through its Arts in Healing program.

“The goal is to bring the creative arts into the health care center to alleviate stress,” said Amanda Visosky, the hospital’s manager of volunteer and complimentary services.

Such programs have become increasingly popular among health care centers around the country, and university research has strengthened the connection between fine arts and health, she said.

“Now people are embracing the fact that we’re treating the whole person and that the arts can help them heal more quickly,” Visosky said.

Vail Valley Medical Center’s efforts began with a program to provide care for caregivers ” the nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals who treat patients.

Last year, the hospital received a “serenity station,” a movable cart equipped with books, music and a massage chair, where staff could relax. The station was Eagle resident Chris Hing’s contribution to the hospital as his Eagle Scout project.

This Wednesday, the hospital will host an art workshop for staff, which local artist Wendy Satsky will teach. Satsky’s methods center around using art as a way to relax and focus.

The staff will start off drawing objects from nature, focusing on drawing in a single stroke and concentrating on the contours of the object. Then the class will use watercolors, focusing on how the colors mix together and work on the palette.

“This is designed for letting go of the stresses of their work,” Satsky said. “And besides stress relief, art is great for opening pathways for thinking and problem solving. Problems can weigh on you, and often focusing on something else opens the pathway to solutions.”

Vail resident Lynn Gottlieb has been attending Satsky’s classes for a year-and-a-half and said she’s excited to see the classes go to the hospital.

“Her workshops come from your spirit,” said Gottlieb, who added that no art experience is needed to attend Satsky’s workshop. “She’ll use quotes and words to focus on. For hours you’re not thinking about anything except what you’re doing. It’s a respite. All the other pressures just leave you.”

A typical visit to the hospital usually doesn’t involve live classical music performances and art displays. However, as part of the program, the hospital has brought musicians, including guest performers from major orchestras, to play in the medical center’s atrium.

“It’s amazing how adding some music to the environment can change people,” Visosky said. “You can instantly see it transform the environment. People say the time goes so much faster. In the hospital, waiting for five minutes can seem like forever.”

The hospital also hopes to incorporate art around the hospital in the future. The idea is that patients and family can take an “art tour” in the medical center’s halls while waiting for treatment or waiting for a family member.

The first piece of artwork will be a “Tree of Inspiration” by Satsky. People can write their dreams, hopes, and positive messages on leaf-shaped colored paper, and Satsky will put the leaves on the tree, creating a 3-D painting.

“It’s a venue for people to be able to share a message of hope, inspiration or gratitude, something uplifting and positive,” Satsky said. “Our belief is that colors, images and (art) work all carry energy. This gives people an opportunity to express themselves in a simple way.”

In the future, Visosky also hopes to start a bedside art program, where patients staying at the hospital can engage in an art project.

Visosky said she’s seen art make a significant impact on patients. I brought in some art materials and we started making a really simple project,” she said. “The patient seemed to be having a bit of a tough time breathing and coughing when I arrived, and by the time we finished, her caregiver told me (the patient) looked better than she had in weeks.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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