When Ricky Kendall, musician-in-residence for UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine, visits patients in hospital rooms, he asks what songs they’d like to hear. Songs are picked for sentimental value, for memories that come attached to those melodies. And when Kendall sings and plays guitar, toes wrapped in gauze and bandages, toes under blankets and toes in fuzzy socks alike tap to the rhythms.
Kendall says as a musician in residence, he offers himself up to patients as an opportunity for creation, communication and connection.
“My job is about trying to figure out what song is going to make them come alive a little bit. I try to draw out things — a story, a positive emotion, who they actually are — whether they realize it or not,” he says. “At the very least, we’re a happy distraction. At the very most, we’re a way for someone to reconnect with who they are outside the hospital walls. We don’t cure them, but I think we do heal.”
The Arts in Medicine program, established in 1990, houses a team of 18 professionally trained artists and art therapists who work intimately with patients.
Program Director Tina Mullen says art therapists chart treatment plans using creative processes, while an artist’s role is patient-driven, fulfilling patients’ desires through art, music and the written word.