Healing Arts Program

Organization Associated with Program
The Washington, DC, VA Medical Center
50 Irving St. NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20422

The Healing Arts Program is offered to residents of the Community Living Center (CLC) of the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a long-term care facility for older veterans, as well as to visiting veterans, family members, and care partners. The program is led by a professional teaching artist in partnership with a music therapist and a variety of other teaching artists focusing in different art forms. There are life story through memoir writing classes and collaborative groups. The Drama Club brings the veterans together to write, rehearse, and perform plays for residents and staff. An art gallery features rotating works by older artists and veterans. Painting classes are designed to support the veterans in honing painting skills using a variety of media, and the resulting paintings are submitted to the Veterans Creative Arts Festival and displayed in the CLC’s gallery. Dance Place, a D.C. dance company, provides weekly classes for residents. 

Program History

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been conducting arts engagement programs led by art and music therapists for a number of years. In 2011, a formal strategic plan was designed and established to develop and implement arts programming at the center on an ongoing basis through a partnership between the center’s Geriatrics and Extended Care Department and the National Center for Creative Aging. The center has since brought in numerous arts and humanities programs and professional teaching artists to conduct arts programs that serve both veterans and staff, such as the TimeSlips storytelling program, Dance Exchange, Alzheimer's Poetry Project, and Kairos Alive.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Programs are evaluated through the use of surveys, patient notes, feedback from staff and family members, and attendance numbers. Evaluations are conducted by lead staff at both the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the National Center for Creative Aging.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Working in a large medical center can be challenging at times. Be patient when working in such a setting, and find allies within the staff who can champion the arts programming.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble
Arts Discipline: Dance, Literature, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Volunteerism
Target Audience: Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Program Setting: Healthcare - Palliative Care / Hospice, Healthcare - Long Term Care
Program Service Area: Urban
Type of Practice: Promising Practices