Putting the 'Arts' in Healing Arts

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A healthcare institution can value art not because of explicit ties to molecular biology or anatomy but because art in itself has a role to play in bettering healthcare providers’ lives and the lives of their patients. This, said Joey Lew, is the reason she co-founded the new art series UCSF Intrinsic Value: Art Celebrating the San Francisco Bay Area BIPOC Community.

“So often in medicine, ties to art and artists are made on the basis of explicit content connections: a collage of microbiological specimens or a dance meant to mimic or make explicit a disease,” said Lew, a medical student at UCSF and a member of the committee for Intrinsic Value. “While these forms of art are incredible and deserve our time and attention, they are not the only forms of art that deserve celebration.”

Lew worked along with several other students in conjunction with community artists, UCSF library artist in residence Farah Hamade, UCSF faculty, and library staff to create the series, which opens April 6 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Audiences must register for the Zoom event.

“The event began because in looking for its likeness there was absence,” Lew said.

After acquiring funding to compensate selected artists, the team assembled a selection committee of community artists, students, faculty, staff, and Hamade.

“We chose to focus on the voices most marginalized in our environment, specifying the BIPOC community,” said Lew. “And the submissions came in. And they were fantastic!”

The series will take place in four parts with one part already completed.

“The first event was fantastic,” said Lew, “and featured Skywatchers, a group of artists and residents of the Tenderloin airing a documentary on Hotel Iroquois, a historic hotel and current single room occupancy (SRO) supportive housing site in the Tenderloin.”

Every event in the series will feature a performance coupled with an interactive component – a Q&A or interview – that allows audience members to further engage.

Two performances will be presented on April 6.

Relearning the Familiar is “an experimental multidisciplinary art practice using painting, assemblage, natural dyeing, and textiles to tell the ways I come into myself, and the cultural practices that have been lost due to assimilation, force removal of homelands and enslavement,” said series creator De’Ana Brownfield.

“I have been intuitively creating work based on dreams, emotions, and the realities I am placed in resulting in a body of work that validates those intersections,” Brownfield said.

In Flavored Legacies: Diasporic Foodways as Legacies of Care, Godreau Soria uses contemporary printmaking and ethnographic interviews to create 8 portraits of women and two-spirit people living in diaspora across the United States. Godreau said her work “explores diasporic foodways as medicinal, as a method to heal and access ancestral memory, and as a ritual for people living in diaspora to travel across time and space using alchemy.”

What began as an effort to connect to artists and provide a platform and appropriate compensation for their work has blossomed into an arts series that organizers hope will become an annual staple at UCSF.

“Not only do we hope you will attend to support art at UCSF, community engagement, and these artists specifically,” said Lew, “but because we genuinely believe that these events are special, meaningful experiences that we are privileged to take part in.” For more information, go to the event webpage, UCSF Intrinsic Value: Art Celebrating the San Francisco Bay Area BIPOC Community.