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“Artistic expression promotes holistic wellness” – Interview with Bartol/SBMA Micro-Grantee Rose Benson

All photos courtesy of Rose Benson.

In March 2018, the Bartol Foundation announced a new partnership with Small But Mighty Arts to award micro-grants to teaching artists working on community-based projects. Rose Benson, a printmaking and drawing artist, is one of the awardees from our fall 2018 class of grantees. Read our Q&A with Rose to learn more about her work and the impact of this opportunity on her career.

We’ll be announcing the details of our fall 2019 application cycle later this summer. Stay tuned!

  

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself as a teaching artist?

My career in the arts has always been as a working artist. After first completing my BFA in painting and ceramics, I completed my education and training as a nurse. My professional work as a nurse in both civilian and military settings has fueled my artistic vision, not just financially, but in terms of content as well. One of my primary goals as a nurse is to provide holistic care to all patients I come into contact with. One of my primary goals as a teaching artist is to inspire and affirm that artistic expression promotes holistic wellness through resiliency.

What will you be doing with the micro-grant you received from SBMA/Bartol?

 The SBMA/Bartol micro-grant is an amazing opportunity that has allowed me to produce a 50-book edition that tells the story of Ms. M.W., a female survivor of gun violence living in Philadelphia. After meeting with Ms. M.W. over a period of several weeks, we decided to print her work of prose that speaks specifically to what she calls her “silent battle” in the years following a violent encounter that forever changed her life. Ms. M.W. (the author) and I (the printmaker) were able to create a unique, hand-printed edition of books that will be returned to the community to further open up discussion of and recovery for the ongoing issues surrounding women experiencing gun violence in Philadelphia. This SBMA/Bartol grant has helped to inspire a larger research project surrounding this same topic within the Department of Anesthesiology at Temple University Hospital, entitled “Women Experiencing Violence: The Role of Support and Resiliency in Recovery.”

What would you tell other teaching artists working in the community about applying for a micro-grant?

This grant was the first funding award I received after graduating with my MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in May 2017. Undoubtedly, this opportunity really became the single impetus I needed to redefine myself as a working and teaching artist in the Philadelphia community after graduate school. The application process was easy to understand and easy to complete. The work of finding a partner in the community has led to a future long-term teaching artist project at Temple University Hospital where I work now. The follow-up support provided from SBMA and Bartol has been truly unprecedented in my career as an artist. This project has been, and will continue to be, a pivotal moment that has changed the trajectory of both my artistic and nursing professional work.

The following statement is from Dr. Ashish Sinha, MD PhD DABA MBA, Professor of Anesthesiology and Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Temple University Hospital. By partnering with him as the primary investigator of a long-term departmental research project entitled, ‘Women Experiencing Trauma: The Role of Support and Resiliency in Recovery,’ we will continue to investigate art as a tool for resiliency in the process of recovery from violent trauma.

I have wondered about what happens to my patients after they receive their anesthesia care from my team? Usual anesthesia interaction is an hour on each end of the procedure; maybe an hour before and another after their recovery from anesthesia drugs. They are then returned into the care of their surgeon. How well, especially the trauma cases, are able to integrate back into their ‘old’ life is a serious question we need to answer. Ms. M.W. could have been just such a case, but then I asked her “What is your story?” and “How did you end up here?” Every patient is more than their symptoms. I was shocked at the challenges she had faced in integrating back into life and how she was coping.

Ms. Benson and I had discussed starting a study about resiliency in recovery and the penny dropped on my head! Ms. M.W. is the perfect starter case for what we were planning in studying: the role of resiliency in recovery with trauma victims, especially women. Ms. M.W.’s story underscores that recovery of a patient, especially a trauma patient, does not end with body healing, as best as that might be possible, but the mind has to be healed as well. Society, both within the medical profession and out of it, has done a suboptimal job at addressing this issue. Once out of my sight (or care), are you also out of my mind? Before your mind has had a chance to heal? We hope that our study will create a blue print for recovery that might be applicable to women who experience significant trauma. We hope that we are able to educate both ourselves and other care givers in this journey.

 

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

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