The artists of Arts in Medicine do more than just play songs beside for patients. For some, a long-term project is possible. Rakim Smith, a poet and hip hop lover, had an interest in writing his own music. Artists in Residence Michael Claytor and Andrew Hicks spent time with Rakim organizing his ideas into songs, creating music for the lyrics, and eventually publishing Rakim’s original tracks. Projects like this impact patients on a deep level, and in this case Rakim was able to achieve a lifelong dream right from his hospital bed.
Arts in Medicine at Shands UF Health is an organization which brings the arts to patients and the greater Gainesville community by “humanizing the hospital experience.” The artists, employed by the hospital, bring art and music to patients bedside, work in the rehab hospital, and work in outpatient and community settings such as theater and dance classes, art classes, and writing workshops. Their work focuses on helping those in the hospital have a more positive experience by connecting through the arts, as well as aims to bring holistic wellness and healing to those outside the hospital by having art and expression be a regular part of their lives.
This project, a collection of five stories focusing on different aspects of the program, was created as a Master’s Degree thesis project in the spring and summer of 2018. I first became connected to Arts in Medicine through an artist, Jason Hedges, for a journalism project in October of 2017. From there, we brainstormed how to continue telling patient and artist stories and really share the magnitude of the impact the program has on patients. Over seven months, I followed the artists in their day-to-day work, in and out of the hospital. I recorded for four months in and out of the hospital, narrowing down stories and finding the best way to tell them. I then edited the project myself, sorting through countless hours of footage to find the best way to tell these stories.
The people I have met and worked with, the patients who allowed me into their space, and the artists who allowed me into their practice, are some of the kindest, most empathetic, and compassionate people I have ever met. Aside from the technical aspects I learned in filming, editing, and producing a documentary, the lessons I learned in communication, mindfulness, and the creative process have forever changed my life. It was the most challenging and rewarding project I have done to date. For that, I am forever thankful to the patients and artists who worked me on this project.