The Alfano Family Arts in Medicine Studio is an innovative arts program made available to patient families being treated in Columbia University Medical Center’s Division of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology & Stem Cell Transplantation. Begun in 2004 as Wilma’s Studio, the program was one of the first of its kind in the United States to bring the arts into a hospital clinical setting. Its stated purpose is to encourage creativity and imaginary play through the use of multiple artistic mediums under the guidance of specially trained resident artists. The transformative effects of the Studio’s work on patient families and medical staff in the clinic setting have served to make it a national model.
The bi-weekly Studio sessions engage patients and their parents and siblings in meaningful self-expression through painting, sculpture, building, and drawing. The art-making takes place on an individual basis or in the context of a group depending on each child’s comfort level. For the 40% of economically disadvantaged patient children in our clinic, their exposure to the Studio may be their only experience with trained artists and an abundance of art supplies.
Nitza Danieli, an artist and Metropolitan Museum of Art educator, directs the Studio. She does creative work with patients, their siblings, and their families who spend many long hours in the clinic for outpatient chemotherapy and other difficult treatments. Parents frequently schedule their children’s appointments on the day the artists are there, and the staff has commented on the palpable difference their presence makes.
Nitza Danieli Horner, an artist, sculptor, and artist-in-residence in the Alfano Family Arts in Medicine Studio at Columbia. She is also an educator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where she conducts tours and workshops incorporating a unique multi-sensory approach that enhances the experience of visitors. Nitza has participated as a Panelist in the Art Education for the Blind “Art Beyond Sight” conferences and has been featured in a number of films including Alexandra Isles’ award winning documentary: “Hidden Treasures: Stories from a Great Museum.” Nitza’s own program titled “Paint the Music,” a unique multimedia program where integrated audiences create original artwork inspired by live music, is contributing to the wellness of individuals living with dementia, together with their family members or care partners. Horner has studied at the Art Teachers College in Ramat Hasharon, Israel.