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WRNMMC displays the “Art of Healing” through December

Woman wearing mask, standing in front of several paintings Cynthia Scott poses in front of her art during the 17th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit taking place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The exhibit will be located in the ‘pavilion’ area of building 19 until the end of the year. (Photo by Sean Patten, WRNMMC.)

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‘A simple line painted with the brush can lead to freedom and happiness.’

The words of famous Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró’s embodies the connection between health and art - between healthcare and healing.

Likewise Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s 17th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit connects patients to the power of art in the healing process. During a pre-recorded interview, classically trained guitarist Andrew Shuman, recounted how music aided in his healing process.

Shuman was put into a medically induced coma by his treatment team at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City after suffering complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer. With his health rapidly deteriorating, Shulman was likely saved by some quick thinking from his wife. Using an mp3 player, Shulman’s wife played music for him while in the coma, and in doing so his vital signs began to improve. When he woke up from the coma Shulman knew he had to give back. “I couldn’t give money,” he said, “but I had my guitar.”

Shulman described how his guitar playing not only helped patients, but his long term healing as well. Before the coma, Shulman had over 15 hours of music memorized. When he finally recovered, he was down to just six songs. By performing, with sheet music, for patients in the ICU, he began to regain his memory. “Healing others helped to heal myself,” said Shulman.

While Shulman’s interview showcased the power music can have in the healing process, the main focus of the exhibit was the art on display, and the artists behind it. With themes ranging from the celebration of the 19th Century American West, to the current political atmosphere, the art on display captured a wide range of themes.

One of the artists featured was Air Force veteran Cynthia Scott, who used her GI Bill to finish a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts. Scott showcased pieces that focused on human eyes. “I guess I’m trying to paint about perception,” she said when asked about her paintings’ meaning.

The exhibit featured many members who belong an art collective of active duty service members, veterans, and their family, caregivers, and friends. “Some [of our members] began their artistic journey with clinical art therapy, and some are experienced, professional fine artists and teachers,” said Scott, the founder of the collective.

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, spirits were high amongst all who attended the opening ceremony. “We hope to inspire art making of all kinds,” said Scott. “Art and self-expression are especially helpful in these times of COVID-19 isolation. We are building community and opportunities to be seen and heard,” she added.

The Healing Arts Exhibit will be in the “Pavilion” located in building 19 at WRNMMC until the end of the year.

For more information about the Arts in Healthcare Program, contact WRNMMC.

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