The American artist Georgia O'Keefe said, "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way…things I had no words for." Art is a universal language, able to transcend boundaries and transform lives. Cancer is a devastating disease, and for people living with cancer, art can be a powerful tool to relieve suffering through creative expression.
COLLAGE: The Art for Cancer Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing innovative art programs for people living with cancer.
COLLAGE: The Art for Cancer Network is named after the ancient art form of collage. Collage is a technique that brings together diverse elements to form a unique composition. As a metaphor, this underscores a core mission of COLLAGE to unite the art and cancer medicine communities to create dynamic new synergies.
COLLAGE has established collaborations with two of Houston's preeminent institutions, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Menil Collection, to lead dynamic programs for people living with cancer – patients, survivors, family members and cancer care providers. The core programs, described below, include Art Workshops, an Artist-in-Residence Program, and Museum Visits. COLLAGE is developing successful models for these programs that can then be implemented in other cancer centers across the U.S. and internationally.
COLLAGE's art workshops are led by accomplished, dedicated local artists. Open to cancer patients, survivors, family members and cancer care providers, these workshops are based on different themes and mediums. Past projects have included collage, traditional Chinese ink art, mask making, watercolors, and self-portraits. COLLAGE has also been invited to host special workshops where participants collaborate on group collage projects. The artists provide a supportive environment where participants, regardless of their previous experience, are free to explore their creativity. With the art process as a focal point, participants are able to share a sense of community.
The Artist-in-Residence Program is designed to bring artists directly to the patient - at the bedside, chair-side, or in a hospital waiting room. This program offers patients and their family members the opportunity to work one-on-one with an artist while they are waiting for or receiving treatment. The goal of this program is to offer a 'creative retreat' during times when patients are already at the hospital – realistically, many people would not otherwise be able to make time for this in their busy and stressful lives.
Using an intuitive approach, the artist engages the participant in the art-making process, tailoring the program to meet the unique interests and needs of each participant. Artists provide an encouraging environment where participants are able to use their creativity to express themselves through art.
For some participants, engaging in a 'hands-on' creative process provides a chance to step aside from their identities as patients and to escape from daily routine. For others, it is an opportunity for self-exploration. Participants benefit in ways that are as individual as the art they create.
Museums, galleries, and other art spaces have the power to inspire, uplift and rejuvenate through their architecture, rich collections, and community programs.
COLLAGE has established a collaboration with the Menil Collection, in Houston, to offer curatorial tours for patients, survivors, family members and cancer care providers. An architectural landmark designed by Renzo Piano, The Menil Collection provides a peaceful and contemplative space to experience and appreciate art.
For physicians and other cancer care providers, COLLAGE hosts a series of curatorial tours and receptions at galleries and museums. Art is a powerful tool for self-nurture – stimulating creativity, contemplation and an intellectually rich diversion – a unique avenue to balance daily work stress.
Special day trips for cancer patients, survivors and family members also provide unique access to dynamic art spaces. Additionally, the group setting provides a sense of community and a chance to share experiences.