is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Side by Side

Congress acknowledged that society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” — William J. Brennan, Jr.

from ACE Weekly April 16, 2009
(visit or for more information)

Side by SideArtists meet the kids this week

by Kim Thomas

With the last two years’ success stories fresh in their
minds, physician Nick Kouns and speech pathologist Diane
Mason were excited to sit down at Starbucks and discuss
what’s next for their brainchild, Side by Side, a six-week
award-winning model Arts program at Cardinal Hill for children
with disabilities. On April 21 and 22, the participants
and their families now look forward to the moment when
each child will be paired with a regional artist, and together
they will create a collaborative piece of art reflective of their
individual strengths as artists.

Kouns and Mason explained how their idea for this artsmeets-
healthcare program had grown into a successful initiative
that has been nationally recognized by an Award in
Excellence in Education and considered a role model for
other programs. [Profiled in Ace coverstory, June 19, 2008.]
This collaboration was also the recipient of the prestigious
MediStar Award, which recognizes outstanding, innovative
healthcare practices in the Bluegrass region.

Kouns points out that the need for such a collaboration
in Kentucky is clear: “Kentucky ranks number 3 in the
country, with the third highest incidence of children and
young adults ages 5-20, with disabilities, with an incidence
rate of 9.6 percent.”

Mason says, “The model of the Side by Side program at
Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital is the product of a discussion
between two friends who had a passion for helping
children with disabilities and a desire to make a bridge with
the community through the arts.”

Cardinal Hill’s Trish Roberts Hatler says, “Based on
their experiences in the program, the children gain newfound
or expanded artistic talent, an increased ability to function in
social or group situations (socialization), and increased self
esteem and boosted confidence. The Side by Side program is
important to our patients, our staff and as a model of art in
healthcare, the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Mary Claire O’Neal, Program Director for VSA arts of
Kentucky [Exceptional Children Services] agrees. “With
the Lexington Side by Side we have a teaching artist
doing studio classes with the kids in addition to their
physical therapists also being a part of the program at
Cardinal Hill. The Cardinal Hill therapists being on hand
is a unique component.”

The exhibit will feature 30 pieces of art, including one
piece created by each child during the six-week course, the
collaborative pieces, and one work by each participating professional
artist. Last year, all 30 works were exhibited together, Side by Side.

Kouns says that with this program, funded by VSA arts
of Kentucky, “the goal is not only to impact the lives of ten
children, but also to inspire local artists to become involved
with the organization. As more programs like those at
Cardinal Hill begin to explore art as a means of therapy, selfawareness
and growth, the need for local artists who are
trained to work in these types of environments will grow.”


Kouns explains how Side by Side was formed when,
“in the fall of 2004, my best friend’s girlfriend, Diane
Mason, and I were having coffee at Starbucks. I had just
been asked to sit on the board of directors of the Lexington
Art League. I was talking about how I wanted to start a significant
arts outreach program, and Diane had asked me if I
was interested in sponsoring an arts day camp at Cardinal
Hill. I ended up spending a great deal of time there—asking
questions, researching documented benefits from a medical
perspective, and launching a fairly exhaustive literature
search. It appealed to my sense of reason that this program
had potential.
I started contacting people in the disabilities
community, and we quickly realized that there was very little
available in the arts for children in Lexington with developmental
disabilities. There were some pretty impressive opportunities available for intellectually gifted children over at the Governor’s School for the Arts, but nothing anywhere near that for the segment of the population we were dealing with. In fact, there was nothing at all available. Quite frankly, it stunned us.”

(Latitude is an Award-Winning model Arts program for
adults perceived to have disabilities, operated by Bruce
Burris and Crystal Bader, downtown on Saunier.)

Kouns says “The model we adopted at the Art League is actually a variation of the statewide program, ‘Side by Side’ that VSA Kentucky advocates and funds. We
took their model and added an onsite healthcare provider facilitator. In other words, we took it one step further in placing the program squarely within the context of a healthcare setting. The children have physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, and providers onsite. These healthcare providers facilitate the process
by adapting the space, tools, and equipment. For example, if a child has difficulties holding a paintbrush, the therapists can make the appropriate changes to the program while it’s in process. The program is easily reproducible, both on a state and national level. Most communities in the United States have the resources available to emulate this model. If you have a healthcare center and an arts community, you can reproduce this model. I look at this program like ‘Special Olympics for the arts’. Kentucky has the third highest population of children with disabilities in the United States. We really should be national leaders in addressing equal arts opportunities for children with special needs. We have seen a great deal of interest from some of our local and state-elected officials. For example, Representative Kelly Flood has been following our program very closely from its inception.”

Flood will be at Cardinal Hill Wednesday, April 22nd, to observe students and artists working on their collaborative art. She says, “We know that creativity is essential to living a life of meaning. When I learned that Kentucky has the third highest incidence of children and young adults (ages 5-20) in the United States with diagnosed disabilities; and that Kentucky currently has no monies dedicated to art programs
for these kids, I decided to act for change. Working with Dr. Kouns, I am seeking funds for equal access to the arts for young people who live with disabilities — funds that will facilitate collaboration between the arts community, local healthcare institutions and civic organizations across the Commonwealth so all Kentucky’s children will know the hope, beauty, and freedom of expression found in the arts.”

Kouns says, “In supporting the special needs communities,
we show them that we respect them and value them. We
remind them (and ourselves) that we are all part of a larger
all-inclusive community. Again, our state allots 2.3 million
dollars a year for intellectually gifted children to pursue an
exemplary program for the arts here in Kentucky. We are trying to provide that same level of opportunity for a broader
and more representative population of Kentucky’s children.”

In his role as a physician, Kouns is aware of the many
plateaus in which art enhances conventional medical treatment.
His assertion that programs like Side by Side can
actually reduce the cost of healthcare is supported by evidence.

“This is a well-documented fact in the medical literature. Art in healthcare programs show repeatedly that arts initiatives decrease the length of hospital stays, thereby
reducing the overall cost of care. People with cancer require less pain medicine when they are involved in arts initiatives. They report increases in their quality of life across the board. The federal government is currently funding national
projects through the Department of Defense using the arts to treat soldiers returning from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether it is Dance Therapy
with Sickle Cell Anemia, Voice with burn patients, or Visual Arts Programming with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence (a program currently underway at the Lexington Art League), these programs provide quantifiable results.”

Kouns advocates, “Let your local and tate politicians know that you support equal
arts opportunities for all of Kentucky’s children. Make a phone call or write a letter. Tell a friend about it. I can absolutely promise those that see the show one thing—you will wake up many mornings afterward with a glad and joyful
heart.” ■

Exhibition: June — July Side by Side

Instructors: Luella Pavey (2009); Christine
Kuhn (2008); Brenda Wirth (2007)

1 comment:

@trickydoc #bluefish said...

Thank you Kimmy, for your voice. It's a beauty.

Much love,