Chance Encounter

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley is speaking about the Artists on the Wards program at The Haven on Saturday, September 29 at 7:00.

“Shirley!” Someone is calling my name, but nobody knows me here. Sande and I have been to the Farmer’s Market and have stopped at Folklife Village to get milk and wine. I turn as the woman who hailed me comes over and introduces herself: Kathy Ramsey, president of the Gabriola Arts Council. She recognized me from my photograph.

Sande has joined old friends for coffee, so I follow Kathy back into Artworks where she introduces me to Jaki Deere, one of the art therapists who will be working in the Gabriola Arts Council’s Creative Art Therapy Program. We quickly discover that one of the groups she will be facilitating is for people who have, or have recovered from, cancer. I have been working with cancer patients through Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute’s Arts in Healthcare program for a number of years. Jaki has lots of questions for me, and I want to know more about what their program involves, so we find ourselves upstairs having coffee as we volley questions back and forth until Sande comes looking for me.

There are numerous arts in healthcare programs across Canada, but little opportunity for us to connect and share information. Some of us belong to the Global Alliance for Arts and Health (formerly the Society for Arts in Healthcare), an international organization based in the U.S. but attending their annual conference, while very worthwhile, is often too expensive. Their medical system is completely different as are their funding programs. Fortunately, we now have a Canadian organization: Arts Health Network. Based in BC, the network has links to programs across Canada on their website ( I hope it will allow us to more easily share ideas and experiences so that we can learn from each other and not have to keep starting from scratch every time we create an arts initiative.

Anyone who is interested in hearing more about the Artists on the Wards program of the Friends of University Hospitals in Edmonton, is welcome to attend my presentation at The Haven on Saturday, September 29 at 7:00. If you slip away early to attend Regina’s 60th birthday party at the other end of the island, I won’t be offended.

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