Making a positive difference with art | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Arterie, Lifehouse News

We are thrilled to introduce Amanda Solomon, co-founder of the Arterie art in healthcare program.

“I first heard about health and the arts as a profession in 2011,” She explains. “It was a lightbulb moment for me where I saw I could combine my interests in arts education and supporting marginalised communities through the practice of art, beyond the actual gallery.”

Following training at the Art Gallery of NSW and gaining her Masters in Fine Arts at UNSW, Amanda set out on a career path that enabled her to help people left at the margins while developing a particular interest in the healthcare setting.

“To me, using the arts is such a simple, effective and accessible way to enhance a clinical environment,” says Amanda. “It can benefit everyone from the patients and their carers to staff at every level, be they clinical staff, administrative staff, café workers or cleaners.”

Amanda’s interest in arts education and community art projects guided her to create her own program centred on educational and teaching experiences for the more challenged members of the community.

“If you can’t get to the gallery, we will bring it to you.”

The program embraced those who might be isolated or facing socio-economic, cultural or health issues at large. Over the years, she has expanded her reach into the hospitals.

“I really wanted to provide a comprehensive blend of art practice and art education, so that we could reach all our stakeholders on different levels.”

It was then that Amanda heard that Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was under construction.

“I became aware Chris O’Brien Lifehouse would be taking a holistic approach to healthcare,” Amanda explains. “It was an ideal moment to pilot the Arterie program and we were given six months to showcase it.”

Arterie now forms a major part of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s holistic approach to healthcare, easing the side effects of illness for patients. The variety of art engagement activities are offered to all patients, carers, families and staff.

“Our projects are designed to provide positive outcomes and are fail-safe. A lot of people don’t realise how easy creativity can be.”

“We trial and practice the projects within the team before taking them to the wider community, to make sure they work for everyone. The last thing we want to do is challenge vulnerable people in any way.”

The positive experience isn’t only in the art activity itself, there are many other benefits ranging from social contact to improved self-esteem as participants get a feeling of accomplishment and see their work displayed around the hospital.

The volunteers who run the projects benefit massively too. After extensive training they have a deep understanding of the program and are invited to design and deliver projects themselves.

Amanda takes great pleasure from seeing people develop their interest in art and one of her more memorable experiences came from working with patients that don’t speak English.

“Art gave us a common language through which we could communicate, and we created an artwork together,” she says of one experience.

This in turn sparked interest from other patients in the ward and before long everyone was out of bed, standing in a group waving and singing together as their physiotherapist conducted the performance. “It was magical and demonstrates the ability of art to connect individuals.”

Equally rewarding for all who take part, Arterie offers an accessible, welcoming environment and you don’t have to be able to paint or draw to take part. Ultimately the program is about making a positive difference to someone’s day.

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