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Connections Summer 2015

Windows to the future

When Carrier Clinic® plays host to a day-long Healing Arts Conference on September 24, attendees will be taking in presentations and panel discussions that feature some of the most noted experts in the growing field of art therapy. They’ll also have the opportunity to see Carrier’s music, theater and visual art programs in action, at locations throughout the Belle Mead campus…and along the way, they’re sure to notice a unique and colorful spectacle taking place outdoors.

A collective of visual artists, hailing from communities all around the Garden State, will be applying their individual talents to painting the glass panes of Carrier’s windows— specifically, the older windows that were removed from the Communications Building during the ambitious expansion and renovation effort. Dubbed The Windows Project, the endeavor is being coordinated by the Arts Council of Princeton as a way of “rescuing, reframing and re-interpreting these pieces of Carrier’s history,” in the words of Jeff Nathanson.

As the Arts Council’s executive director, Nathanson was contacted by Carrier’s CEO Donald J. Parker late last year, with the suggestion that the beautiful old windows be spared a fate as mere construction debris. The Carrier CEO invited Nathanson to offer ideas on repurposing the glass and frames as free-standing objects of art, having been inspired by the Council’s annual “PaintOut” projects at each year’s Spring Arts Festival. During those popular outdoor events, dozens of artists take to the streets of Princeton to work “plein air” style in creating unique pieces of art, with the public invited to observe (and occasionally even offer input toward) the creative process.

Nathanson will be calling on some of his favorite artistic collaborators to “take a window and make art” for the September 24 project; an opportunity that he calls “a wonderful vehicle through which to create something with real meaning and significance.”

“I have to commend Carrier for their commitment to the arts as a vehicle of healing,” the director observes. “It offers the promise and the potential to do genuine good, for the people who are fortunate to be in the care of Carrier and its professionals.”

Activities that have been shown to change the flow of neuroactivity.

On September 24, the Belle Mead, NJ campus of Carrier Clinic® will host a conference on the topic of Healing Arts. One of the most ambitious of such events to be presented in the region, the conference will cover the past history of arts-related therapies like painting, poetry, and performance; their fast growing acceptance and implementation by today’s mental health community, and the increasingly significant role they will play in future years. Delivering the keynote address at the event will be a figure whose trailblazing work in the field has served to connect the worlds of science and the arts: Dr. Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH.

A young specialist in Internal and Preventive Medicine, Nobel has made significant contributions to the development of information tech-based automated systems for healthcare management, to the extent it’s been said that you’ll thank him when “you no longer have to fill out a paper form at your doctor’s office.” Still, it’s the doctor’s position as founder of the Foundation for Art and Healing—a nonprofit organization for which he serves as president and eloquent visionary spokesman—that merits recognition wherever a poem becomes as effective as a pill; where an exercise in movement becomes the medicine, and where a thimble and thread become the tools of therapy.

Based in Brookline, Massachusetts, the Foundation exists at the forefront of a movement that has grown exponentially within a few very short years— integrating what were once regarded as “alternative” treatments into programs that have exhibited some remarkable real-world results, and serving as a “bridge” between the medical profession and a basic human impulse that extends back beyond the first colorful cave paintings.

As detailed by its founder, an adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health and an award-winning poet, the Foundation for Art and Healing operates according to a three-tiered mission that includes expanding public awareness of the benefits of arts therapy; conducting research into the effectiveness of arts therapy programs, and putting forward a platform of “innovative programming” that can be adopted by facilities like Carrier Clinic®.

“Carrier is among the facilities that have been including these modalities as a way to treat things like anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression,” the doctor continues. “The goal is to create a more positive environment…the art therapists are the ones who really build these programs, and our role is in the area of coaching, and toolkit development.”

Activities ranging from watercolor painting and digital photography to drum circles and even karaoke have been in place for years throughout Carrier Clinic®
, serving to ease the reliance upon medication, seclusion and restraint…and fostering a space where, in the words of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), “clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”

Working with fully credentialed and certified Art Therapists, Carrier has keyed into a discipline that has been embraced by the established medical community for its proven results in promoting wellness, managing stress, alleviating pain, enhancing memory, improving communication, and promoting physical rehabilitation. The therapeutic effects of such programs as music-making sessions have been measurable, and the Art Therapy curriculum has drawn from many fundamental elements of modern developmental psychology.

While Carrier has pioneered and promoted these arts-based therapies for more than a decade, Dr. Nobel sees the broader acceptance of arts therapy as having “reached a tipping point” within the past five or six years. It’s a phenomenon that can be attributed in part to the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001…an interval that found children around the greater New York metro area displaying signs of sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating in school, to even more serious manifestations of depression.

“Creative expression became a widely used technique
during that time,” explains Nobel. “Almost universally,
the kids got better…something primary in the brain
had been activated, independent of ethnicity or background…and
the fact that such a simple modality had
such a positive effect, got my attention.”

Other significant strides were made through collaborations between medical facilities and arts oriented entities like New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the lessons of 9/11 were employed by Nobel in addressing issues related to such events as the Sandy Hook tragedy and the Boston Marathon bombing. Perhaps most significant of all is the increase in use of arts expression programs for military personnel, during a time in which a burgeoning number of returning veterans have exhibited signs of post traumatic stress disorders (there have even been arts therapy programs designed to prepare soldiers prior to their tours of duty).

In years to come, the Foundation’s founder sees a greater emphasis on promoting arts activities within settings that range from schools and workplaces, to houses of worship. Most of all, Nobel believes that the medical field and the general public will embrace the presence of arts therapies, for the simple reason that “People enjoy it! These are fun, unthreatening, nonjudgmental activities that have been shown to change the flow of neuroactivity, and that have been included by the National Institutes of Health.”

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