Work of art
Nursing professor based new book on UF course
By Michelle Champalanne
Like many students, Vanessa Sucar often neglected improving her well-being. She didn’t have the time or the energy. While she knew daily exercise and a balanced diet were essential to a healthy lifestyle, she never imagined painting would be vital to helping her body, too.
Last fall, she enrolled in a course called Spirituality and Creativity in Healthcare within the UF College of Nursing and discovered the importance of promoting her own well-being through healing tactics she previously neglected, such as art, she said.
Sucar had wanted to be an artist her entire life, but lacked the courage to pursue it, she said. This class encouraged her to take time for herself.
She embraced her creativity by experimenting with various activities, such as gardening, raising monarch butterflies and painting. Through that, Sucar uncovered her artistic side while healing herself, she said.
“I learned lessons about healing that I can utilize when the time comes for me to care for my own patients,” Sucar said.
Taught by Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., Ph.D., the class inspired her newest novel, Healing with the Arts, a self-guide on how to use art as a way of healing. Based on the same principles taught in the classroom, the 12-week program in the book involves incorporating a different creative process each week from painting to music to yoga.
“It is a course that allows the student to really explore and experiment with their own creative process,” said Lane, an assistant professor at the College of Nursing and director and founder of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine.
Lane has been teaching this course for seven years every fall semester but has more than 20 years of experience in the arts and medicine field. She wanted to share her work with readers and was inspired by similar art healing projects involving Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lane wrote the book to empower other people to do the work taught in class and to be able to have the confidence to heal themselves with creative art, she said.
In the class, Lane has students ask themselves what in their lives needs to be healed and focus their attention on that, she said. Lane then guides students to make their personal story an artistic expression, even if they don’t have any art experience.
“I am so honored and in awe to be teaching this class because it’s such a powerful journey for the students who participate in it,” she said.
Emi Lenes, a teaching assistant for Lane’s class, took the course as a student and began helping teach with Lane in 2006. She uses the principles taught in the class in both her personal and professional life, she said.
“When I make art about something instead of letting it consume me internally, I can look at it outside of myself and get a greater perspective,” Lenes said.
Lori Leys, M.S.N., a clinical nurse specialist in Orange Park, took this course last fall as a graduate student at UF.
“This class not only gave you the ability to seek yourself from within, but it also gave you some perspective on the world around you,” she said.
Leys, once an avid painter in high school, had ignored her artistic side because of her busy schedule, she said. This class showed her how to release her feelings through painting, and why that time is valuable.
“There are so many different things out there that move you away from yourself,” she said. “They are moving you toward trying to help others, and in doing so, (you’re) neglecting to take care of yourself.”
She used lessons from the class to construct a community board for her hospital department at work. Employees were encouraged to build on the wall by adding personal information about themselves or their families. The project made employees feel more connected and built a sense of community on the floor.
In the class, Lane said she worked to develop a safe, encouraging environment for her students by releasing judgment. She believes everyone’s own creative gift can be powerful for healing other people, she said.
Leys felt grateful to have that experience to heal herself through a difficult time, she said.
“Sometimes I don’t think I’ll find an environment like that again,” Leys said. “But that’s OK because the class is something I can look back on and smile.”
Healing with the Arts is available for purchase. Here’s where to buy the book:
• Barnes & Noble
• Beyond Words
• Indie Bound