Every Friday, artist Eva Mantell arrives at the University Medical Center at Princeton, armed with art books, paper and basic art supplies.
Accompanied by nurse Rebecca Godofsky, Mantell goes room to room and does art projects with patients in the Acute Care for the Elderly unit.
She brings simple crafts that anyone can do, from basic printmaking to a project that uses colored masking tape and magic markers.
“Some people just have a conversation about an art book and reflect on what they see, reflect on something beautiful and inspiring, it’s a nice interaction,” said Mantell, a faculty member at the Arts Council of Princeton. “Sometimes with others, it’s a small art project.”
The results have been memorable.
She remembers one sad patient who seemed to enjoy drawing. Another patient saw her and said, ‘It's good to see you smile.’
Mantell remembers showing a man whose hand shook a way to make a collage. He told her, ‘This opens up roadblocks in my mind.’
Now an opportunity has come up to expand the program to the hospital’s oncology unit and the Arts Council of Princeton is asking for your help.
Princeton HealthCare System has made it to the second round for a $14,000 Livestrong Foundation grant that would sponsor an artist-in-residence in the hospital's oncology unit. The 20 U.S. hopsitals with the most online votes by March 23 will receive grants.
Art can help patients reduce stress, loneliness and the perception of pain. It has been linked to to shorter hospital stays, less need for pain medication and reduced stress on medical staff, according to the Arts Council.
“Sometimes there’s resistance (from patients),” Mantell said. “It’s ‘Oh, I don’t draw, I can’t do art.’ I like to bring in a technique that’s so open and so available everyone can make something that becomes an actual piece of art we can talk about.”
Mantell has been working with hospital patients since Sept. 2011 through funding from Church & Dwight Employee Giving Fund, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the National Center for Creative Aging.
The opportunity to expand the program to oncology with a $14,000 Livestrong grant would allow Mantell to work with cancer patients. She lost two older brothers, Stephen and David, to cancer. Both were both in their early 50’s.
“When you have something like that happen, it’s not easy,” she said. “You want to make it better for other people.”
If Princeton HealthCare System receives the Livestrong grant, it would pay for Mantell to work one day a week in the oncology center for a year, beginning in June. It would also pay for art supplies and online training focused on working with cancer patients and tips on how to sustain the program once the grant funding is finished.
“I think everyone should have art,” said Mantell, who holds a graduate degree in fine art and loves working in community outreach. “I think it becomes something that takes you away for a little bit or can take you into yourself. It can be very personal and individual and that can be important in a hopsital setting.”
Andrea Honore, director of fund development at the Arts Council of Princeton, said the program can engage both patients and their families and allow staff members to tend to other patients.
“It’s not going to intimidate or bother anyone and is often a nice thing for people to do,” she said. “And it’s easier to talk when you’re doing this.”