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Wayne State University’s ArtsCorpsDetroit joins DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan in community-based arts initiative

January 17, 2012

New mural reflects the experiences of its pint-sized creators

DETROIT - Wayne State University (WSU) senior Matthew Lambert visited DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan in search of a service-learning project for one of his classes. There he found inspiration in the hospital's Healing Arts Program and conceived of a year-long project that would enlist the help of patients, their families and other volunteers. On January 18, WSU and Children's Hospital will formally unveil "The Communal Experience Project," a mural comprised of tiles painted by patients and glazed by Lambert in cooperation with volunteers and studio technicians. The patients were unaware of the overall image and were assigned only a color palette in which to create small compositions within a larger image. 

"The real art is not the mural itself," Lambert explained. "It's the experience and the process as felt by all participants. It's art acting as a transformative action. The mural is simply a byproduct of the experience, which will never end by virtue of the mural's location, and by the people and groups who may be inspired going forward." 

Lambert, a WSU Honors student with a double major in Fine Arts and Psychology, began the mural as a class project in a WSU service-learning course, "Art in Community:  Art as a Social Process," in winter 2010.  He enlisted Wayne State's Ceramics Program to provide the clay and glazes for the project, as well as the studio in which the tiles were fired. Taught by WSU Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History Mame Jackson, the course offered an unusual opportunity to integrate community-based participatory arts experiences with the academic study of the various ways that art functions in our culture, in our communities, and in our lives.  

"ArtsCorps is like the Peace Corps," Jackson explained. "It puts students and volunteers in different parts of the community in arts-related projects. There is something special and transformative about the arts. Working in the arts in different areas of the community with different groups and organizations brings a vibrancy and vitality back to our city. It's not about the murals we paint or even the parcels of land we transform. It's about the lives that transform through the process." 

WSU's arts-based service learning courses are part of a community-wide arts initiative, ArtsCorpsDetroit. Established in 2010 with support from Wayne State University and TechTown, ArtsCorpsDetroit links volunteers with service organizations and neighborhood groups throughout the city to contribute to the vibrancy and revitalization of Detroit through participatory arts projects. ArtsCorpsDetroit recently received a two-year grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. The grant enables ArtsCorpsDetroit to expand its services and to systematically evaluate the impact of arts as a catalyst for community revitalization.

Lambert's mural project exemplifies the ongoing collaboration between ArtsCorpsDetroit and the Healing Arts Program of DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan.  Headed by artist, arts educator and Wayne State University graduate, Grace Serra, the Healing Arts Program was established in 2004 to improve the health care experience for patients, families, and caregivers by integrating the arts in the hospital setting. Research has shown that patients engaged in the creative arts are better able to manage stress, reduce negative mood states and change behavior that impacts their recovery.

Serra and Jackson have worked together to initiate an ongoing collaboration with Wayne State University and ArtsCorpsDetroit to enable students and other volunteers to contribute their time and creativity to the Healing Arts Program. Some volunteers work individually with hospitalized children at their bedsides and in outpatient clinics. Others create lasting works of art, such as Lambert's "The Communal Experience Project," which are integrated into the hospital's décor to add creative energy and vitality to an otherwise austere clinical environment.

"Children's Hospital has a lot of patients who make repeat visits," Jackson added.  "Now they have an opportunity to see their artwork in that hospital. They have left their mark -- a beautiful mark in the form of a lovely piece of art on the wall."

DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan will host a reception to celebrate the permanent installation of Lambert's mural on Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 5:30 - 7 p.m.

For more information visit: ArtsCorpsDetroit http://www.artscorpsdetroit.wayne.edu/

Children's Hospital of Michigan Healing Arts Program: http://www.childrensdmc.org/HealingArts.

To review the full study, visit http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/68/5/527.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.

  • Contact: Francine Wunder
  • Voice: 313-577-8155
  • Email: francine@techtownwsu.org
  • Fax: 313-577-4459
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