Artist-in-Residence program provides healing through art

Patsy Echols found art to be an important part of her healing process during her stay on the Swedish Covenant Hospital rehabilitation unit. She credits her participation in the Artist-in-Residence program for helping to brighten her outlook.

“Art got me outside of myself, I was grateful to use my creative side,” Patsy said.

A systems analyst and minister at her church, Patsy incorporated an analytical approach to the creation of her art project, a Fibonacci sequence. She also used her creativity to approach the art in unique ways. She contemplated color and composition. She was also challenged with facing her physical limitations and learned to create art in spite of these limitations.

It was through this process, and her faith, that she found hope.

“Instead of focusing on my illness, I was glad to focus on possibilities,” Patsy said.

The Artist-in-Residence program provides the opportunity for patients to experience the healing and therapeutic power of the creative process. Creating art allows people to be active in their healing process and can serve as a way to visualize emotions and experiences.

The most compelling aspect of the Artist-in-Residence program happens during the interactions between patients, therapists, other clinicians, and the artist. Each week, the Artist-in-Residence, Kari Lindholm-Johnson, facilitates group sessions for inpatients on the rehab, extended care, and psychiatry units. She also visits with patients on an individual basis upon staff referral. Most participants often have little to no experience with art making, but through the group sessions, they are able to experiment with different art materials and may experience positive outcomes such as pain reduction, increased physical stamina, decreased stress levels, and engagement in various types of community and social interactions.

"Hand Iris"

“Hand Iris”

The Fibonacci sequence project challenges patients to create repeating patterns. Patients are then able to take home these individual pieces of art, which document a moment in time for the patients during the healing process and can be especially meaningful.

In addition to individual art projects, like the Fibonacci sequence, patients also create collaborative art projects that connect individual expression with the healing process, including “Hand Iris.” In this original idea for “Hand Iris,” Kari rolled a wheelchair over canvas to paint the stems and leaves. Patients then painted the irises by dipping the side of their gloved hand into white paint and making imprints on the canvas, which exercised fine motor skills and gross motor skills. It also provided an opportunity for patients to connect with other patients on their unit.

“As we made this painting, emphasis was placed on the fact that in the rehab process, we learn to do things in new ways, and utilize creative thinking for how to live life,” Kari said. “A wheelchair and hands were used in new ways to create beauty and engagement with one another.”

The Artist-in-Residence program is fully funded through the Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation. To learn more about the Artist-in-Residence program, or to support the program, contact the Foundation at or (773) 293-5121, or go to

About Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation

Swedish Covenant Hospital Foundation works to inspire charitable giving through philanthropic partnerships with those in our community who want to make a real difference. We fulfill our health care mission through the generosity of our friends, neighbors and business leaders who care about the community and the health of those who live here.

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