Submitted by Carrie McClintock:

“Colors Open a Door to Fulfillment”

What began for Darleen Boynton as a simple activity while waiting for discharge at the University of Michigan Hospital, became a doorway into enhanced personal meaning and connection. Darleen is a pulmonary patient with a double lung transplant who, like many others with significant health concerns, spends long term stays repeatedly in the hospital. Fondly called frequent fliers by hospital staff, these patients grapple with the boredom and frustration that comes from not being able to live life on their own terms: pulled out of their life context with their normal activities interrupted. One day, before a long-awaited discharge, Darleen was given an original art coloring book, designed for adults.

Darleen isn’t a color within the lines sort of person, but some of the artwork in the book caught her eye. Not feeling great, she chose a design thinking, “This owl isn’t very complicated; I can do that.” She quickly lost track of time, and when it was time to go, she was caught by surprise because she had stopped thinking about it.

Going into more and more depth with it, she researched each artist in all of the Gifts of Art original art coloring books to learn more about their artistic style and to find inspiration. She loves trying to find pieces in the hospital by those same artists, especially enjoying Chris Roberts-Antieau’s quilt The Great State of Michigan and the Motawi Tileworks tile quilts. She makes special trips and gives tours of the hospital with her guests to show them the permanent artwork originals that gave rise the designs she has colored, as well as the different artists’ work showcased in the 9 Gifts of Art changing galleries. Her coloring has turned into a full-fledged passion and life fulfilling creative outlet. She feels really good about expressing herself in this way, it gives her something positive to share with her family and visitors when she is in the hospital, and it has brought a lot of pleasure to her life when things have been pretty hard.

The Bedside Art program that Darleen participated in offers visits by artists-in-residence with a variety of diverse art making kits with materials and designs from around the world. Art kits include: journals, beaded bracelets, paper folding, greeting cards, drawing and more. The Gifts of Art program at Michigan Medicine has many free programs involving visual, performing and literary arts for patients, guests and the entire hospital community, including weekly public concerts and the Life Sciences Orchestra: http://www.med.umich.edu/goa/programs.htm. In her room in the hospital, Darleen also has enjoyed Bedside Music, the Art Cart (lending library of prints for patients), and Story Studio (audio storytelling). She now has her colored pages framed in a few locations in her home.

The process of experiencing art promotes health and well-being by providing creative distraction, anxiety relief, human connection, and other benefits. Experiences of art and culture are vital to maintaining healthy, vibrant communities. One patient as she was waiting for her new tests looked at Greg Potter’s paintings of humorous animals out of their element due to circumstances beyond their control, and said that she could completely relate, because when being diagnosed “you feel like you are not yourself anymore,” however, “even if you’re not in your normal environment that doesn’t mean you’ve lost all of who you were before… you learn to adapt to your new environment, and you transform into someone much stronger and wiser without losing who you are.” To find out more about the Gifts of Art program, visit http://www.med.umich.edu/goa/index.htm