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CFA Plans Arts in Healthcare Program

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University at Buffalo Reporter

CFA planning arts in health care program

Published: October 18, 2007

Contributing Editor

The Center for the Arts is planning to launch a comprehensive arts in health care program in partnership with Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo next fall, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee learned yesterday.

Thomas Burrows, CFA executive director, told the FSEC that the center is taking "a slow build on this process through this academic year" in planning the initiative, which will involve training selected artists to work in the health-care environment, interdisciplinary curriculum development by UB faculty, and research "to contribute to the body of knowledge that already exists in the field of arts in health care."

Implementation of the UB arts in health care initiative will be based on a well-established and successful model at the University at Florida at Shands, the not-for-profit primary teaching hospital for the UF College of Medicine, Burrows said.

The director of the Shands Arts in Medicine program visited UB last summer to work with CFA staff, as well as administrators from Women and Children's Hospital, and training will continue next summer, Burrows said.

CFA already has partnered with the UB Department of Sociology to prepare for documenting how such a program will help the hospital improve staff retention and patient satisfaction, two areas identified by hospital staff for special focus.

"Over the course of the first year, we will conduct simple surveys, document responses and we will then look at the data and see if there has been a positive effect on staff retention, if somehow this makes it a more attractive place for health-care givers to come into," Burrows said.

At the same time, visiting artists will contribute their special skills in music, dance, drama, creative writing and studio arts to entertain and teach patients through performances and demonstrations, Burrows said, adding that the program also will offer some professional children's programs during the course of a year.

Like the Shands Arts in Medicine program—which began as an investigation of how art might reduce the stress of hospitalization, and grew into a philosophy of care that centers on the belief that art is an integral component of healing—the UB arts in health care initiative will fulfill the university's mission of outreach to its neighbors.

"I must say that the CFA staff members who are working devotedly on this are very excited about this opportunity in the community," Burrows said, adding that the program "is part of our vision for CFA to be a hub of artistic excellence, education, research and service, and to improve the quality of life for our university and the community."

Burrows, who has spent his entire career "in the performing arts in one way or another" and has served as executive director at CFA for 11 years, said the center's annual budget has grown during that time from $1 million to $3.3 million, "61 percent of which is earned revenue primarily from ticket sales, rentals, production service and advertising sales."

CFA, which opened in 1994, served 50,000 patrons in its first full year, Burrows said.

"Thirteen years later, more than 158,000 patrons attended over 350 events held in the center over this past year," he said. "The center has become part of the cultural fabric of Western New York. Our professional presentations represent both the best of classical traditions and the boldest of contemporary performances from around the world."

Burrows is quite proud of the center's new video production unit, for which he has hired two new staff members and has "begged, borrowed, but not stolen" equipment and other resources.

"I had long wanted to be able to develop an in-house television capability for the university," Burrows said. "It has so many values."

So far, the staff members have produced, among other projects, a video about CFA and, with the UB Division of Athletics, a series of half-hour programs called "Bullseye" that appear on public television.

Many people don't realize that "community outreach has always been a strong focus for the center," Burrows noted.

"For more than a decade, we have been involved in public service, arts and educational-enrichment programs," Burrows said. "For 10 years, our dance residency has brought professional dance companies into area grade schools, high schools and arts academies for workshops, demonstrations and performances for more than 30,000 students."

These activities are provided at no cost to the schools, he added.

CFA also offers the School Time Adventure Series, which includes live theater performances for 7,000 schoolchildren during the academic year; a technical theater program for high school students, college students and adults; and the summer Explore the Arts program for students in grades 5 through 8, which focuses on the technical and dramatic aspects of theater.

The Explore the Arts program provides "full scholarships, transportation and meals for children from underserved communities, who represent about 50 percent of the program's participants," he said.

Peter Nickerson, director of the pathology graduate program in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, asked whether many students attend CFA events.

"We have many more students now and part of that is due to keeping a student price that is accessible and that means, in effect, we are subsidizing some attractions," Burrows said. "Another way to stay more closely in tune is that we are working with the Office of Student Affairs to let them know which artists and events we are contemplating having to the center."

Gayle Brazeau, associate dean for academic affairs, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, asked how the center offers patrons opportunities to donate to CFA, and Burrows said the center advertises in event programs, as well as sends out two major mailings each year.

When Stella N. Batalama, associate professor of electrical engineering, asked if the CFA programs that Burrows handed out at the meeting could be sent to faculty and staff early in the semester, he said visitors to the CFA Web site  at can find the most up-to-date programming information year-round.