Arts, Innovation Guide N.C. Children's Hospital Program
Arts For Life began with a pediatric patient's photography lesson. Now, it harnesses N.C.'s artistic and medical innovation to help thousands of kids heal.
The nonprofit provides free photography, painting, drawing, music, creative writing and sculpting lessons to more than 8,000 pediatric patients and their families each year — an approach shown to reduce anxiety among kids dealing with serious illnesses or disabilities.
Executive Director Rachel Zink credits the state's rich arts tradition as one reason for the organization's success. North Carolina is home to the nation's first locally established arts council (The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County) and one of the country's largest local arts agencies (Arts & Science Council in Charlotte).
"Each of our communities is deeply involved in the arts, fostering creativity in unique and meaningful ways that extends to our work with children in hospitals and clinics," said Rachel, who works from Arts For Life's headquarters in Asheville, a community known for its love of the arts.
The innovative, world-class care provided by children's hospitals is another key to the nonprofit's growth. Founded in 2001 at Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem, Arts For Life also has programs at Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center in Durham, Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, and Mission Children's Hospital in Asheville.
"We can't change a diagnosis, but by partnering with doctors, nurses and administrators, we can help transform the care experience for kids and families," said Rachel.
Above all, Arts For Life's success has been driven by the willingness of North Carolinians to help each other. With just five full-time and six part-time employees, the organization relies heavily on more than 100 volunteer teachers and interns, and countless other supporters.
"It starts with the people of this state," said Rachel. "They provide the outlet for creativity to help thousands of children and their families during the toughest times of their lives."