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The Manifold Talents of Nurses Who Are Artists

May 5, 2010

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Ferris wheel through the sunroof in the rain, by aturkus / Alan Turkus, via Flickr

As the coordinator of AJN’s Art of Nursing department, I’m intrigued by intersections between the two fields: Art and Nursing. About a year ago I profiled several multitalented nurses (The Triple Talents of Some Nurse Bloggers), including Julianna Paradisi, an RN, artist, and writer who blogs about “where science, humanity, and art converge” at JParadisi RN’s Blog. (Her painting Love You to Death appeared on our October 2009 cover.) In March Paradisi launched a second blog, Die Krankenschwester, which emphasizes images. One series depicts rituals followed “From Cradle to Grave”; another considers the iconography of call lights. Paradisi’s work is beautiful and thought-provoking; stop by and have a look.

Recently I happened upon Nurse–Artists International, Inc. Started in 2009 by Kathy Iwanowski, an artist and former oncology and hospice nurse, the organization has an ambitious vision that includes “promoting the arts, humanities, and the therapeutic benefits of creativity in all aspects of life and living,” “creating and collaborating on projects related to arts and health with corporate, educational, healthcare, and other community partners” and “assessing the impact of the arts on health and healthcare costs.” Among its programs are the International Association of Nurse Artists, with membership open to nurses working in any artistic medium; Our Space to Create, a collaborative program for developing arts projects that meet community needs; and the Arts and Health Co-Lab, open to anyone interested in the connection between the arts and health. Iwanowski’s personal Web site offers samples of her found-object sculpture and visual art.

Art by Nurses states that its aim is to “bring nurses together as a community using art as a powerful self-care resource.” Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, it offers members an online venue for showing and selling art. A percentage of works sold goes into an Art Fund for Nurses, to which “any registered nurse can apply for funds to use art as a strategy to maintain balance and meaning in their lives as healers.” Worth a visit simply for its Art Galleries, which include striking photographs and artwork by more than 20 nurse-artists, including founder Lynda MacLeod, Shona Lalonde, and Pasquale Fiore, as well as Catherine Fraser, whose watercolor “Herb Store” was featured on AJN’s August 2007 cover.

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6 comments

  1. Thank you Sylvia for mentioning Art by Nurses. I love the way you have pulled all of us together on one page. I had fun looking at JParadisi RN’s Blog and Die Krankenschwester along with Kathy’s personal website. What a great way to start the day. It affirms my belief that ART brings nurses together. It is always so positive and inspiring.

    I am heading off to St Paul’s hospital in Vancouver BC Canada to attend a Nurse’s week celebration and the opening of the first Healing Hallways art exhibit.
    Happy Nurse’s week to you all.
    Thank you for the connection.

    Lynda McLeod
    Founder of Art by Nurses
    Nurse educator-Artist-Creativity coach
    http://www.artbynurses.com

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  2. Well said, Sylvia. For me making art is “reporting from the trenches”, so to speak, like the artists who traveled with journalists, making woodcuts of what they saw for print, before the advent of photography. Many of the paintings I make are not pretty at all, but they are honest. Art certainly can be healing, but that decision is made by the artist who makes it. I like art that raises more questions than it answers.
    Thank you for mentioning my work in the post. It takes more work than one would think to make a good piece of art. It’s not easy to convey a thought in an image or a well-crafted sentence. Like nurses, artists aren’t paid full value in money for the work that we do. But if it were easy, they wouldn’t call it work, eh?

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  3. It was so wonderful to get an email letting me know that you had hughlighted our organization in your blog yesterday. It couldn’t have been a better time as it was our first year anniversary. In the past year, we have had our art associations represented by a gallery in Orlando and are now in Cakewalk Artists’ Co-op in St. Petersburg, FL. Last month, we got our first international members…one from Australia and the other from New Zealand. I have also talked with Lynda McLeod frim Art by Nurses in Canada last year to discuss a possible exchange of work for exhibition. Now, I know I need to revisit that conversation after seeing her organization in your blog, too. I am very excited to be leading Nurse-Artists International. I see my work as a form of wellness nursing. Thanks again for bringing attention to us.

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  4. [...]      Home from work, I checked my email and found that senior art editor Sylvia Foley mentioned both of my blogs, JParadisi RN’s Blog and Die Krankenschwester in a post on the AJN blog Off the Charts. [...]

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  5. Laura, thanks for writing. I think it’s always been hard for artists – whatever the medium – to make a living solely from their art. And I think it’s a myth that art must necessarily and always be “healing.” Certainly, as you say, the making of art is often really hard work! It’s stressful, it might be intellectually or emotionally difficult . . . and yet for those who do it anyway, the process is everything. What I’m heartened by in your story is that you have gained an enthusiasm for nursing – and you haven’t stopped taking photographs. Good to know.

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  6. As a nursing student/photographer, I can see where art would be a good outlet for nurses. However, as I have discovered, art is subjective & getting work can be fickle. I busted my butt 24/7 trying to make a living at photography & it was quite stressful. Actually being in nursing school has been a lot less stressful. If a nurse does art for pleasure & relaxation it is fun, exciting & builds up one’s ego. However, if one tries to do it professionally, then it becomes another job. I know that when I am working as a nurse my outlet will not be creating art & doing photography jobs, but mine will be traveling & taking photographs for my own benefit. Now that’s relaxation.

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