Arts and Health

Arts and health are intertwined in many ways - in patient care, healing environments, caregiver support, personal and community well-being, memorialization, professional and public health education, advocacy, and fundraising.

Many cultures and communities have a long history of traditional arts, medicines and practices that have helped to sustain healthy living and address health challenges. Around the world, new attention is being given to the ways in which the arts and traditional knowledge about healing and wellness can address contemporary health issues.

A continually growing body of research provides evidence of the important relationship between the arts, health and well-being.

The Art for Charlie Foundation supports children in hospice and families bereaved by the death of a child. It also promotes pediatric palliative care through conferences and advocacy. The need for such a mission became clear when Charlie Waller, a young boy in East Lansing, MIchigan, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor. raising fundsand awareness is done through sponsoring art shows, auctions, and competitions.

The foundations uses art-related activities because art affirms life and beauty and can bring people joy and comfort. Participating artists are invited to become an "Artist for a Cause".

For more information and to learn about how to get involved, visit: http://www.artforcharlie.org

The Great Lakes African American Quilting Network

Formed in 2003, the Great Lakes African American Quilting Network (GLAAQN) is a group of fiber artists passionate about making, exhibiting, and preserving quilts. Based in Livonia, members have shown their work throughout the Midwest, and many Metro Detroit venues including: the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Virgil H. Cultural Arts Center. As a 501(c)3 organization, they work to preserve the legacy of African American quilting. The group of women and men have also conducted educational workshops at schools, libraries, community centers, and other quilting guilds throughout the Great Lakes region.

View their art work and community collaborations on their website:

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Quilt Index
A Michigan State University Digital Humanities Collaboration

With over 48,000 panels, The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is likely the world’s largest arts and health project. It has been an extraordinary tool for panel makers and quilt organizers to memorialize those lost to the disease and to advocate for health education and research to address this world pandemic.

Three MSU units – the MSU Museum, the College of Human Medicine, and Matrix: Center for Humanities and Social Sciences – are partnering with the NAMES Project Foundation, New School (NYC), and University of Iowa to digitize images and information about the AIDS Memorial quilt, make the data publicly accessible through MSU’s Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org), and expand awareness and research and educational use of this powerful humanities resource.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt, begun in 1987, is a monumental and unique work of arts and health activism that reflects the worldwide scope and personal impact of the AIDS pandemic.

• The Quilt is composed of 48,000 individual panels that commemorate more than 91,000 names of individuals who have died of the disease.

• The Quilt measures more than 1.3 million square feet.  If laid out in its entirety, it would cover more than 29 acres of land.

Since the late 1980s, the Michigan State University Museum has fostered public engagement in making panels, exhibited panels in exhibitions and festivals, and now is digitizing images and stories of the panels to preserve and make them accessible. Often the MSU Museum has partnered in these activities with the Lansing Area AIDS Network and the NAMES Foundation (Atlanta, GA). Portions of the quilt are often shown at annual December 1 worldwide Day Without Art events.

Bobbie Slider aka “The Quilt Lady”
(Lansing, Michigan)

Bobbie learned to sew at a young age and she has been quilting ever since. Bobbie originally wanted to donate quilts to the elderly in nursing homes, but when her good friend Brenda was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment at the Breslin Cancer Center, she instead began making quilts for Brenda and other patients undergoing chemotherapy to bring them physical and emotional comfort.

Brenda is thankfully now in remission, but Bobbie has continued to make and donate what she calls “Brenda’s Quilts” for chemotherapy patients. As of 2015, she has made over 400 quilts for this healing purpose.  She says that every quilt has been given with much love, understanding, and support for the difficult times for these patients.



Siyazama Project
Using Collections to Educate: The Siyazama Project

Since 2000, researchers and educators at the MSU Museum have partnered with researchers, educators, and artists based in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, South Africa, on the Siyazama (Zulu for “we are trying”) Project, an arts-based AIDS education and economic development project. The project has widened dialogue and awareness of AIDS both locally and globally through the distribution of dolls and the telling of their stories. At the same time, sales of the dolls have created and important economic benefit to the Zulu women artists/doll makers and their families.

The MSU Museum has worked with the Siyazama project on documenting and collecting stories, developing publications and exhibitions and festival programs, and building one of three largest museum collections of AIDS-related art (the other two are at the British Museum and at University of California-Los Angeles) that can be used, like this week, to continually raise public awareness about AIDS

Orphan Tower, 2012
Made by women from the Siyazama Project
Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, South Africa

Collection of Michigan State University Museum, acquired with support from the MSU Foundation through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies.

600 beaded dolls in one tower = Number of AIDS orphans in one South African Village

6000 beaded doll towers = 3 million children left orphaned by the AIDS pandemic in this country today.