A virtual art show hosted by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine shows the remarkable power of healing for people with illness or other troubling life circumstances.

"Art for the Journey: Healing through Creative Expression" is being held in conjunction with the Art for the Journey organization, a Richmond group that strives to spark creativity in underprivileged communities and inspire individuals to experience the joy of self-expression. The mission of Art for the Journey is to overcome barriers to transform lives through art.

More than 100 works of art are on display on the school’s website along with short videos of individuals involved with local art therapy programs for Alzheimer’s patients and prisoners, as well as members of the Art for the Journey organization.  

“Our fall 2020 art show looks a little different this time, as we follow recommended health guidelines regarding gatherings in small spaces,” said Dave Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture for the medical school. “With this online gallery, people have the opportunity to view these amazing works of art at leisure on their own time. We very much appreciate the generous logistical support from Art for the Journey to make this unique show possible.”

The Art for the Journey organization was founded by a small group of artists who discovered the power of art to transform their life experience and who wanted to share that with others. That sense of partnership and mutual support now includes a growing community of volunteers who are spreading the impact of art throughout their communities.

“When you combine a positive environment with artmaking, it touches something inside of us that can’t be touched any other way,” said Cindy Paullin, executive director for Art for the Journey. “Art helps us find a space where we’re not thinking of anything else except creating a work of art. It’s a type of non-pharmacological therapy.”

The "Art for the Journey" show at the medical school includes works of three distinct groups of artists: people with Alzheimer’s patients, veterans, and women who are incarcerated.

For Alzheimer’s patients, the organization utilizes a program called Opening Minds through Art (OMA), developed by Elizabeth Lokon at the Scripps Gerontology Medical Center at the Miami University-Ohio. OMA is an award-winning, evidence-based, intergenerational art-making program for people with Alzheimer’s diseases and other forms of neurocognitive disorders. The program provides opportunities for creative self-expression while at the same time giving its volunteers opportunities to improve their attitudes toward aging. OMA Facilitator Certification Training is available through Art for the Journey.

The second population of artists featured in the show is veterans, many of whom bring wounds home with them, some of which never heal. Art for the Journey seeks to honor these men and women through art projects that give them an opportunity to immerse themselves in the healing through the art-making process.

Finally, the show features art pieces created by women who are incarcerated. Most of these pieces were created by inmates at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, where Art for the Journey has offered classes. In an otherwise harsh environment, the atmosphere of an art studio provides positive support and awareness of the deeper emotional and psychological benefits of creativity.

The "Art for the Journey" show is part of the medical school’s Creativity in Health Education program, which aims to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students, faculty, and staff by integrating the arts in to their daily routines. The program allows faculty and students to embrace the arts and understand the role that art can play in both education and the practice of medicine, as well as involve the community members in the life of the school.