The Heart and Soul of Arts in Medicine

Posted October 16, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Carol Herron assists Charles Tomayo II with a "fish" art projectDon’t be deceived by Carol Herron. She is the one you may hardly notice at the big event, the one setting up the chairs or ushering children to their seats or disappearing to find scissors or a microphone. At any arts-related event at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, Carol will be working the corners of the room, inviting children to move to the front row, cleaning up spilled glitter and glue, holding the elevator for the teenager in the wheelchair. She won’t be in the spotlight. In fact, you will barely know she’s there, standing in the back, calmly taking in her surroundings, quietly managing the hubbub.

Yet, Carol Herron deserves to be noticed. She may be petite, but she’s a powerhouse. She heads the Arts in Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, which treats more childhood cancer and hematology patients than any other program in the U.S., with patients coming from 35 states and 26 countries around the world. Her job includes supervising over 90 volunteers and artists from nonprofit organizations across the city, overseeing Making a Mark, an annual event showcasing art from more than 350 kids being treating for cancer and blood disorders, and organizing hundreds of performances and hands-on workshops with patients every year.

With a Master’s degree in Recreation Therapy as well as experience in psychiatric health care and physical rehabilitation, Carol brings specialized knowledge to her daily work. She understands the theoretical value of the arts in medicine, but she also knows the practical power of the arts in a way that transcends numbers. Every day she facilitates experiences so that children can step beyond the confines of the typical hospital world and for a few minutes or hours be transformed by doing photography and painting, by watching puppeteers and magicians and operas, and by writing stories and poems and songs.

As the WITS writer-in-residence for many years at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, I feel honored to work with Carol Herron. I learn so much under her tutelage and guidance—how to listen to and respect these children who face cancer and blood disorders, how to believe deeply that the arts matter, and how to give fully and unconditionally. In life and death situations, you slowly learn that healing comes in many forms. It’s not always flashy; it’s often quiet and behind-the-scenes. Thank you, Carol Herron, for your work doing what truly matters, healing the world.

Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools (WITS)

* Thank you to The Periwinkle Foundation, which funds the WITS program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.

Mirrors

Posted May 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

One day I was sitting at home. It was the day after I got my hair cut short.  I thought I was stable but then I took a good look in the mirror, and I wasn’t comfortable with what I saw.  I stared and thought about it.  Then I took my journal (which I didn’t usually write in!) and picked up a pencil and started writing.  The words just poured out onto the page.  In a few minutes I had a written a poem called “Mirrors.”  I didn’t share it with anyone.  It was just for me.  Then I met the folks from Purple Songs Can Fly project, and they asked if I wanted to write a song.  I read them my poem, and they said, “Yes!  You’ve already written a song. This is perfect.”  So, I recorded my first song ever, “Mirrors.”

By Kaitlin, 15

Kaitlin participates in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.  She turned her poem “Mirrors” into a song through the wonderful Purple Songs Can Fly program.  Click here to hear Kaitlin’s song “Mirrors.”

WITS is Mentioned in the New York Times

Posted January 7, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

ishaphotowanita-purplesongscanfly.jpgToday the New York Times published a great story about Purple Songs Can Fly, an organization founded by Anita Kruse that helps young cancer patients write, record, and produce original music. Writers in the Schools collaborates with Purple Songs at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Both WITS and Purple Songs are part of the Arts in Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Hospital led by Carol Herron. You can read more about the collaboration between WITS and Purple Songs in an article by WITS Writer Marcia Chamberlain here.