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Latest from the ArtsVote2016 Campaign Trail

Hot off the press.

ArtsVote2016 Preview


ArtsVote2016 Preview

Posted on: Jul 7, 2015

What would you say if you had the chance to tell the next President of the United States how much the arts matter to you?

That’s what the goal is of our ArtsVote2016 national campaign. We’re creating opportunities for your voice to be heard over the noise of the presidential elections, especially in pivotal early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa.

But we can’t do this without your help.

With your support, you can help us to:

  • Train 200+ arts advocates in each of the early primary states to attend town hall meetings and meet-and-greets with presidential candidates.
  • Retain a political/media strategist who will open doors to meet candidates in order to discuss how the arts are valued and supported in every state they visit, starting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Create customized Questions to Ask every candidate as well as arts background papers about each candidate.
  • Draft unique arts profiles about New Hampshire and Iowa in order to share with candidates so they understand that voters in these early primary states value the arts.
  • Expand our website so that we can provide these new robust resources to candidates and advocates.

Our goal is to raise $250,000 for the 2016 election cycle by encouraging Arts Action Fund members to contribute $20.16 to the Arts Action Fund. Reactive your membership now, and your contribution will provide the support we need to continue the critical work we are doing for ArtsVote2016.


Thank you for playing your part,

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Executive Director, Arts Action Fund


P.S. Check out the advice on the arts that Arts Action Fund members are giving to presidential candidates. Send us yours on Twitter using the hashtag #ArtsVote2016!

The Return of Orphan Works - Action Needed!

The Return of Orphan Works
The Next Great Copyright Act

We would like to thank artist Elaine Frenett for bringing this issue to our attention via her connection with the Illustrator’s Partnership of America and other related groups. It is crucial that artists retain the rights to and control over their creative works, and it appears that the US Copyright Office and the US Congress are threatening to take those rights and control from us with a new version of the US Copyright Act. This is not the first time this has been proposed, and twice before the national arts community has managed to fend off this attack on our intellectual/creative property, yet this latest proposal appears to be worse than previous versions. Grass roots activism has gained influence in Washington, DC, and though many of you may not be accustomed to such actions, this is one we hope will motivate  you to join with the rest of the creative arts community by writing  a letter to the US Copyright Office…and hopefully your state representatives in Congress, too. The information below will fill you in on what they propose and some ideas to help you write your letter. The deadline for submitting your letter is July 23, so there’s plenty of time to craft a well-written letter, yet no time to waste, so let’s take a few minutes to put down our brushes and pick up our pens to preserve our control over our creations. There is a link to the Copyright Office website where your letter can be submitted under the When and Where heading below. Please read the entire article carefully. We hope the suggestions for your letter will help you get your own words flowing so the letters received in Washington are effective and powerful. Go to to learn more about copyright and the challenges artists face when it comes to the control of the use of their works.


Click here for a timeline of the history of copyright legislation in the United States from the association of Research Libraries.

The EU published a US Copyright Office report on this topic, which can be found via a link at the bottom of this article:

Though they do not seem to have published anything about this recently, Fractured Atlas, an Americans for the Arts partner organization, is a source of helpful information, and may have other services you find helpful in other areas of your art career.

Artists Alert: From the Illustrators Partnership

The Return of Orphan Works

Part 1: “The Next Great Copyright Act”

JULY 1, 2015

For more than a year Congress has been holding hearings for the drafting of a brand new US Copyright Act. At its heart is the return of Orphan Works.

Twice, Orphan Works Acts have failed to pass Congress because of strong opposition from visual artists, spearheaded by the Illustrators Partnership.

Because of this, the Copyright Office has now issued a special call for letters regarding the role of visual art in the coming legislation.

Therefore we’re asking all artists concerned with retaining the rights to their work to join us in writing.

When and Where

Deadline: July 23, 2015

You can submit letters online to the Copyright Office here.

Read the Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry.

Here are the Basic Facts

“The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law.

It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.

It would “privilege” the public’s right to use our work.

It would “pressure” you to register your work with commercial registries.

It would “orphan” unregistered work.

It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by “good faith” infringers.

It would allow others to alter your work and copyright these “derivative works” in their own names.

It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.


The demand for copyright “reform” has come from large Internet firms and the legal scholars allied with them. Their business models involve supplying the public with access to other people’s copyrighted work. Their problem has been how to do this legally and without paying artists.

The “reforms” they’ve proposed would allow them to stock their databases with our pictures. This would happen either by forcing us to hand over our images to them as registered works, or by harvesting unregistered works as orphans and copyrighting them in their own names as “derivative works.”

The Copyright Office acknowledges that this will cause special problems for visual artists but concludes that we should still be subject to orphan works law.

The “Next Great Copyright Act” would go further than previous Orphan Works Acts. The proposals under consideration include:

1.) The Mass Digitization of our intellectual property by corporate interests.
2.) Extended Collective Licensing, a form of socialized licensing that would replace voluntary business agreements between artists and their clients.
3.) A Copyright Small Claims Court to handle the flood of lawsuits expected to result from orphan works infringements.

In your letter to the Copyright Office:

It’s important that lawmakers be told that our copyrights are our source of income because lobbyists and corporation lawyers have “testified” that once our work has been published it has virtually no further commercial value and should therefore be available for use by the public.


So when writing, please remember:

* It’s important that you make your letter personal and truthful.
* Keep it professional and respectful.
* Explain that you’re an artist and have been one for x number of years.
* Briefly list your educational background, publications, awards, etc.
* Indicate the field(s) you work in.
* Explain clearly and forcefully that for you, copyright law is not an
legal issue, but the basis on which your business rests.
* Our copyrights are the products we license.
* This means that infringing our work is like stealing our money.
* It’s important to our businesses that we remain able to determine
voluntarily how and by whom our work is used.
* Stress that your work does NOT lose its value upon publication.
* Instead everything you create becomes part of your business inventory.

* In the digital era, inventory is more valuable to artists than ever before.

If you are NOT a professional artist:

* Define your specific interest in copyright, and give a few relevant

* You might want to stress that it’s important to you that you determine
how and by whom your work is used.
* You might wish to state that even if you’re a hobbyist, you would not
welcome someone else monetizing your work for their own profit
without your knowledge or consent.

Because this is a complicated issue, we’ll follow up next week with some expanded thoughts of our own.
– Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner
for the Board of the Illustrators Partnership
The Illustrators Partnership has filed multiple papers with the
Copyright Office regarding this issue.

You can download them from the Copyright Office website:

Remedies for Small Copyright Claims

January 17, 2012

Orphan Works and Mass Digitization

Initial Comments, February 3, 2013

Orphan Works and Mass Digitization

Reply Comments, March 6, 2013

Orphan Works and Mass Digitization

Additional Comments, May 21, 2014

Please post or forward this artists alert to any interested party.

Arts and Business Partnerships

Throughout the United States, today’s most innovative businesses are using the arts to help them meet some of their most difficult and vital objectives.

In 2012, Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, created The pARTnership Movement to help businesses understand the strategic value of partnering with the arts and build their own successful partnerships.

I am excited to share that The pARTnership Movement’s newly launched essay series provides an insider look at how some of the most prominent businesses in America profit by partnering with the arts. Each of the eight essays illustrates one of The pARTnership Movement’s 8 reasons businesses partner with the arts.

Download the Essay!
Download Recruit and Retain Talent, the first of eight essays

With insights culled from some of the most celebrated business leaders in the United States, the essays, which will be released throughout 2015 and 2016, provide real-world examples of how partnering with the arts can help businesses of all sizes and industries tell their story, recruit talent, advance corporate objectives, develop a wider consumer-base, engage employees, and build stronger communities.

I hope you will take a look at the first essay in this new series, Recruit and Retain Talent. This essay provides insight about how by partnering with the arts, businesses can attract and retain the talented, motivated people they need in order to gain a competitive edge and outperform the competition.

If you’d like to be notified when new essays are posted on The pARTnership Movement website, sign up for BCAnoteworthy, our monthly arts and business newsletter.

Do you have your own successful arts and business partnership story to share? We want to hear from you! Tell us about it on Twitter using #ArtsandBiz or email us at [email protected].

John Tess Matches Donations to Oregon Culture Made Before June 30

Dear friends,

As a board member of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition for nearly 10 years, I have seen how the Coalition’s dedication to our future has made a difference in protecting funding and reinvesting in culture and preservation in Oregon.

Right now we need your help. Our Coalition is working for passage of critical legislation and increased funding. Funding for arts and culture is precarious in the best of circumstances and we know some would eliminate our funding entirely if given the chance. I feel so strongly about the importance of our work, right now, that I will match the first $1,000 in new or increased membership donations received through June 30, 2015.

Until this session closes, we will have funding and policy issues at stake. Legislation we are supporting will significantly strengthen culture in Oregon and legislation we oppose could have long-term devastating effects.

  • SUPPORT – SB 441 Increases arts and culture grants to nonprofits, allows for greater investment return and adds much needed Trust staff
  • SUPPORT – HB 2962 Designates Cultural Trust as exclusively for arts & culture purposes
  • SUPPORT – HB 3526 Creates and funds Oregon Main Street Revitalization grant program
  • SUPPORT – HB 5525, HB 5528, HB 5502, HB 5030 Funds a range of cultural activities and agencies
  • OPPOSE – HB 2137 Taxes art valued above $250,000 (including art sold or temporarily stored in Oregon)

Our Coalition is entirely member-funded and cannot advocate effectively without our support. I have seen firsthand how important effective advocacy is in our state legislature–to protect the Oregon Cultural Trust, preserve Historic Preservation incentives, defend Oregon’s landmark percent for art program and the Oregon Arts Commission. This work is vital to all of us. I hope you will take advantage of my offer to match the first $1,000 in new or increased membership donations received through the end of this month. Join us, support our work, become a member of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition and protect our future.

John Tess
President, Heritage Consulting Group
Board Member, Cultural Advocacy Coalition
Trustee, Oregon Cultural Trust

PS. Building our coalition to advocate on behalf of the cultural community is so important that I have committed to match the first $1,000 in new and increased membership gifts received before June 30, 2015. Take advantage of my offer to match your gift, and help us protect arts and culture–and finish the session strong!

Congress Considers Level Funding for NEA

It’s been a fast-paced appropriations season so far! On June 16, the U.S. Senate approved legislation (for the first time in six years!) in subcommittee to level fund the National Endowment for the Arts.The U.S. House also kept its pace for rapid consideration, approving its NEA funding bill in full committee today as well. Tomorrow, the bill that funds the federal museum agency and arts education is on tap for consideration (first time in three years!) in another House subcommittee. And on Thursday, the Senate returns to consider its bill to fund the NEA in full committee.Despite the substantial effort in Congress to advance bills in a timely way, the Administration last night issued a veto threat to the bill because of its numerous policy riders, thwarting any expected advancement.

What you need to know

Last week, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill providing sustained funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. All the cultural institutions, like the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution, also were proposed at level funding.

June 16, the full committee reported out this legislation on a 30-21 vote, enabling it to next be considered on the House floor.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) offering amendment to increase funding for NEA by $2 million to full committee
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) offers amendment to increase funding for NEA by $2 million to full committee

During full committee consideration, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) offered an amendment to boost funding for both the NEA and the NEH to the President’s request. This is roughly a $2 million increase to $148 million. Although his amendment did not receive a vote, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David Price (D-NC), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) all spoke favorably on his amendment. Rep. Pingree noted the work of the Maine Humanities Council in her district; Rep. Israel spoke about Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families, a publication of the NEA. A writer himself, Rep. Israel shared his interest to scale up healing arts therapy work with veterans going forward and in more areas across the country. Rep. Price shared with his colleagues another publication, the Heart of the Matter, tucking it in also as recommended reading. Rep. Price also shared with all appropriators that NEA and NEH are funded well below their historical levels. He compared funds to 1992 and said with just inflation, we’d be investing nearly double had we just retained those levels. You can watch the June 16 proceedings at this webcast link, in which Rep. Israel’s amendment can be found at the 2:57 timestamp.

The Senate subcommittee also considered their version on June 16. Both NEA and NEH are also proposed for level funding. The subcommittee’s statement can be found here. The full committee considered the bill June 16.

What’s next

House floor votes could occur as soon as the last week in June, prior to the 4th of July congressional recess. As the process moves forward, the NEA and other cultural agencies may be prime targets for proposed cuts, if history is any lesson. We will keep you posted on any harmful amendments as the bills head toward the House or Senate floor.

Help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. If you are not already a member, you can play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today—it’s free and easy to join.

Thank you for your support of the arts!

1000 Vermont Avenue NW
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T 202.371.2830
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[email protected]

Editor’s Note: Yesterday we sent a message to Oregon House Representative Greg Walden via an ArtsUSA petition. It began with the petition text written by ArtsUSA advocates, but we wanted to add more. We hope you will also send your own message to our representatives about why level or increased funding for NEA programs—which fund Oregon state arts programs—before Congress votes on the proposed budget next week. Feel free to copy ours (below) if it resonates with you. We received a message back from Rep. Walden this morning indicating that he will keep our priorities in mind throughout the budget and appropriations process, but if he needs to hear from more of us. In his words, “At the end of the day, it’s your money that we’re talking about—you ought to have a say in how it’s being spent.” If hears from many, many more of us, we may actually get a $2 million increase in funding as proposed by Rep. Steve Israel of New York last week, but you need to know that continued efforts to cut funding to the National Endowment completely are still threatening this agency so vital to arts funding across the country and in our own home state.
“As your constituent, I urge you to increase or support a budget of $146 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the FY 2016 Interior Appropriations bill to preserve citizen access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts and to advance creativity and innovation here at home.

The arts mean jobs for our district! The nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 4.13 million full-time equivalent jobs in the arts and related industries, and returns $9.59 billion in federal income taxes.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the NEA announced the latest figures on the arts and cultural sector’s contributions to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), proving that the arts are a significant part of the GDP. Arts and culture activity produced $698.7 billion in goods and services annually or 4.32% of GDP – more than both the construction or transportation sectors.

Grants through the NEA are widely distributed to strengthen arts infrastructures and to ensure broad access to the arts. The NEA makes grants in every congressional district. Furthermore, the NEA distributes 40 percent of its program dollars to state arts agencies, on the condition that each state devotes its own appropriated funds as well. In partnership with the NEA, state arts agencies have awarded 22,000 grants to more than 18,300 organizations, schools, and artists in nearly 4,800 communities across the United States.

With funding for the arts having been cut from most of our schools, I am very concerned that our children are not getting enough exposure to the arts to help them achieve their goals and become productive member of society. I heard a parent recently tell me that her son, who is studying a pre-med curriculum in high school, was having trouble getting decent grades in biology classes because he couldn’t draw an accurate line drawing of an anatomical feature! That’s of grave concern, and this example makes a case for supporting availability and access to the arts outside of the school system. The NEA improves access to the arts, supports artistic excellence and fosters lifelong learning through grants, partnerships, research and national initiatives. The current level funding of $146 million amounts to just 45 cents per capita, as compared to 70 cents per capita in 1992. I am counting on you as my Representative to support at least level funding of $146 million for the NEA.

On a side note, I urge you to support the NEA’s STEAM educational model for our schools. This would add steam to the STEM program and improve student’s ability to learn, retain, and effectively apply information in a broad range of subjects by incorporating the arts into the curriculum. A society that does not value the arts beyond pretty pictures on the walls is NOT a world I want to live in! Numerous studies have proven that including the arts in education does far more than teach kids how to draw or paint or play the piano, but results in important enhancements to executive function and neurological development during a child’s formative and educational years, not to mention creative/collaborative problem solving (and oh do we need more people with those abilities active in our society!), and the fact that high school students with four years of art classes average 100 points higher on their SAT scores than those whose studies included one semester or less of art. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the many ways art can contribute tangibly to our lives. We should respect the truth these studies have discovered and give our kids every opportunity possible to excel in school and in their professional lives after school by reintroducing funding for the arts in education. It is deeply troubling, embarrassing and a poor reflection on the priorities of our society that they were ever cut to begin with.

Approving level funding for the NEA right now is a healthy start. Please commit to continuing funding for the NEA right now, and make it a part of your fight for preserving the quality of life in our country and our ability to complete on the global stage with creative innovations and solutions that only come when kids learn how to think creatively and effectively express their ideas by increasing the NEA’s funding from flat to being up-to-date with the increases in inflation and on par with historical levels at a minimum, and restoring funding for the arts in our schools.”

Oregon Arts Legislation Update from CAC

We are at the beginning of the end! Another major deadline in the legislative process is nearly here: June 5 is the last day for bills to be worked in their 2nd chamber policy committee. This means that legislation under consideration this week has already been approved by either the House or the Senate–they are halfway through the process–and must be approved by a committee on the other side of the building… and get one more floor vote, before going to the governor. But, in addition to the standard parliamentary process, there is one more hurdle: the session rules require these bills make it out of committee by Friday.

Bills not moved out of policy committees by this Friday are dead.

Except, this deadline does not apply to the budget process, anything in Revenue committee, anything in the Rules committee or any joint committees, so hundreds of pieces of legislation are unaffected by tomorrow’s looming cutoff. But, hundreds more will come under this deadline and will be ineligible for further action this session. Legislators are planning to conclude their work by June 26, but could extend to the constitutional deadline of July 11 if needed.

This has been a very active session for the cultural community. The Coalition has both policy and funding concepts before the legislature. Below is a quick overview of legislation we are tracking and current status.

Bills we support

  • SB 441 Modifies Oregon Cultural Trust and increases arts and culture grants (Ways and Means)
  • HB 2962 Designates Cultural Trust as exclusively for arts & culture purposes (Rules)
  • HB 3042 Designates April 14 as honorary Artists of Oregon Day (Enacted)
  • HB 3526 Creates and funds Oregon Main Street Revitalization grant program (Ways and Means)
  • HB 5525, HB 5502, HB 5030 Funds cultural activities and agencies (Ways and Means)
  • HB 5528 Funds heritage commission and state historic preservation office (Enacted)

Active bills moving with Coalition requested amendments:

  • SB 913 Criminalizes ivory sales  (Amended to exclude instruments) (Judiciary)
  • HB 2214 Adds nonprofits to list of public employers for purposes of transfers (Amended to exempt transfers between nonprofits) (Enacted)
  • SB 699 Exempts theatre hair stylists from cosmetology regulations (Amended to clarify scope of exemption) (en route to House floor)

Bills we oppose

  • HB 2137 Taxes works of art valued above $250,000 (art stored or sold in Oregon) (Revenue)

You can always find more information at where we have advocacy resources that include a quick link to contact your legislator and issue briefs on coalition priorities this session.

Thank you to those of you who were able to break away and join us for Advocacy Day in Salem last month. Attendees met with their legislators, participated in advocacy training and heard from key legislators who are champions for arts and culture in Salem. If you weren’t able to join us this year we hope to see you next February in Salem for Advocacy Day 2016!

And, thanks again to those who have testified in support of amendments and written or called your state legislators. We have found that legislators are open to our concerns and are willing to work with us to strengthen legislation to advance and protect art, heritage and the humanities statewide.

We aren’t done yet, but with your help, this has been a strong session for culture in Oregon!

Christine Drazan
Executive Director

P.S. Don’t forget, the Cultural Advocacy Coalition is a coalition of Oregonians, businesses and nonprofits who care about art, heritage and the humanities—and understand the important connections between culture, community and a vibrant and strong Oregon economy. To continue to advocate on behalf of culture in Salem we need a strong coalition behind us—and that means you! Please consider joining or renewing your membership in the coalition today. If you have already joined us this year—thank you! If you intended to join, but just haven’t done it yet, now is the time! We need you in our coalition. Take a look at the Coalition’s current members and you will recognize advocates who are just like you in their commitment to the future of culture in Oregon. We hope you will join us in this important work today.

Oregon Arts Commission News

oregon arts commission news
May 31, 2015
Performers from the Steens Mountain Ballet’s Ballet II troupe perform at an Evening to Celebrate the Arts before the Burns symposium. Accompanying them on violin is India Paramore. Photo by Larry Gilliam.


Art’s Transformative Power focus of Burns Symposium

Compelling stories of art contributing to economic and cultural vitality in rural communities highlighted the May 19 and 20 Southeast Oregon Symposium on the Arts and Economic Development in Burns.

“We heard very distinct and successful examples of where small, isolated rural communities have utilized the arts to strengthen local economy and quality of life,” says Brian Wagner, Arts Commission community development coordinator and event facilitator.

Close to 100 people attended the Symposium, hosted by the Harney County Arts in Education Foundation as part of an effort to explore the feasibility of building a Harney County Performing Arts and Education Center.

Linda Neale (left), advisory board chair for the Harney County Performing Arts and Education Center, talks with Gary Marshall, a High Desert Partnership  executive board member and rancher, during a symposium breakout session. Photo by  Larry Gilliam. 

Harney County’s deep cultural roots include founding the Sagebrush Orchestra, the precursor to the Portland Youth Philharmonic – the oldest youth orchestra in the country.


“As evidenced in Marfa, Texas, a focused community vision for the arts can be realized and transformative,” says Arts Commissioner Michael Dalton, who also attended the symposium. “Once the community gets behind a dream, it can happen.” Commissioner Anne Taylor and Brian Rogers, executive director, also participated.

Update on national research project scheduled


Those who missed a February briefing for the national Building Public Will for Arts and Culture project are encouraged to attend an encore, more robust update by the Metropolitan Group from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Friday, June 5, at Portland Center Stage. The briefing will be hosted by the Regional Arts and Culture Council.


Oregon is one of four pilot sites for the project, designed to explore opportunities for arts and culture to be more sustainable, accessible and celebrated parts of our lives. The first phase of work included research that examined the core underlying values people associate with arts and culture, as well as the best ways to communicate those values.


The June 5 briefing will share learnings and explore what the findings mean for local arts and culture communities. There also will be a discussion of plans for implementation of the recommendations in Oregon.


If you are unable to join in person but would like to attend virtually, please dial 877-868-6863 and the passcode 256936#. Read the Creating Connection report from the research. RSVP by Monday, June 1 at [email protected].

Creating Connection: Building Public Will for Arts & Culture

Creating Connection: Arts and Culture Research and Message Framework

Creating Connections: Research Findings and Proposed Message Framework to Build Public Will for Arts and Culture

Metropolitan Group and Arts Midwest are pleased to share the Creating Connection report, detailing our findings from a national research project conducted in Fall 2014 around public values, behaviors and attitudes as they relate to arts and culture.

Specifically, we asked:

  • How do people define arts and culture experiences in their everyday lives?
  • What core values drive arts and culture experiences?
  • What messaging effectively connects arts and culture to what people really care about, and motivates them to want to do more of it?

 Building Public Will for Arts & Culture

Our report is part of a broader initiative that we are undertaking to use the “public will building” social change strategy to make arts and culture a more recognized, valued, and expected part of our everyday lives.

We are excited about the potential impact the findings from the research phase can create. We also recognize there is much work to be done to achieve this ambitious goal—work that will include engaging diverse, cross-sector leaders in and beyond the arts and culture community in adopting new approaches to messaging and audience development; harnessing the recognized benefits of engaging with arts and culture in our programs and communications; and thinking critically about new ways to overcome the barriers facing our field.

For more information and to get involved in the initiative, please visit Arts Midwest.

To download the Creating Connection report, please click below:

UCLA Medical School's 'Guest Artist' Is Helping To Teach Doctors About Disease

Reposted from Huffington Post Arts & Culture


Ted Meyer, Scarred for Life: Meyer uses block-print ink to transform human scars into vibrant colorful abstractions in his “Scarred for Life” series, inviting others to share the physical remnants of their survival stories.

Ted Meyer is the guest artist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. If you weren’t aware that medical schools had guest artists, you’re not alone. But this initiative is very real, aiming to teach doctors about illness through the practice of art.

Yes, Meyer’s work brings artists together to help educate future physicians and epidemiologists on the more human aspects of disease. “The artists use their work to tell a story,” Los Angeles-based Meyer told The Huffington Post. “It helps the doctors look at people as more than something to cure.”


Daphne Hill, Avian Flu: “Daphne does work about germs and her fears of them sickening herself and her children. Her talk was interesting as she explained how her fears developed and how doctors might talk with someone like her who has already been checking the Internet and read the possible worst case scenarios.”
Meyer began his stay at the medical school in 2010, though the foundation of his ongoing project began much earlier — in fact, his inspiration dates back to his birth. “I was born with a very rare genetic condition,” said Meyer, who grew up with Gaucher’s disease, a disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs. “There was no treatment for it. Starting at about age 6 I was in and out of the hospital all the time. I grew up thinking maybe I’d make it to thirty, maybe not.” Among other things, manifestations of the illness include bruising, fatigue, anemia and skeletal disorders.

During his time in the hospital, Meyer turned to art as a means of expression, release and inner healing. Creating imagery filled with skeletal bodies contorted in pain, Meyer’s resulting series was titled “Structural Abnormalities.” He often made use of the materials around him, incorporating bandages and IVs into his images, all revolving around the idea of, in Meyer’s words, “being in a body that didn’t work particularly well.”

Bandaid, by Damienne Merlina

Damienne Merlina, Bandaid
And then, something unexpected happened. Meyer’s health began to improve. “I really hit a point where, thanks to Western technology, there was a new treatment. Almost all of my symptoms disappeared,” he said. “I had my hip replaced so I could walk normally.” Although undoubtedly a miracle in terms of his life and wellbeing, the sudden shift left Meyer directionless as an artist.

After a period of uncertainty, Meyer resolved to shift his artistic perspective entirely. While still focused on the body, his work shifted from its “singular and isolated” mode to one more “happy and sexual.” More importantly, instead of sharing his own story, he began inviting others to share theirs.

For this series, which Meyer dubbed “Scarred for Life,” he applies block-print ink to human scars and the skin surrounding them. He then proceeds to press paper to skin, and subsequently accents the images with paint and pencil, turning physical remnants of suffering into inimitable splashes of color and line. Although the project center around scars, the art is less about suffering and more about survival. “I make these prints that look like Rothkos — color field prints,” he said. “I don’t want [to emphasize] the shock value of, ‘Oh, look how disfigured they look.’ For me, it’s a story more like mine: let’s make the best out of this that we can from this point forward.”


Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy
Meyer explained the intense reactions he received in response to the works, which toured everywhere from the United Nations to the Pasadena Armory; reactions of an intensity he never experienced when painting. “People would come look at my work and just sort of break down crying,” he said. “Others came up to me and said, ‘Look at my scar, let me tell you about my scar.'” He was receiving emails twice a week from people all around the world, all wanting to share their personal scar story.

This gave Meyer an idea. With so many people grappling with illness and using art as an outlet, perhaps their creative efforts could serve as a means of unorthodox education as well. “It became very apparent to me that all these people who do work about their illnesses, really have a lot to say,” Meyer said. “Maybe they could teach something to medical professionals. There has been art therapy designed to help patients, but I thought maybe there is something to teach the doctors here. Perhaps they can look at patients’ artworks and see something beyond the clinical. It’s not just ‘oh, they have multiple sclerosis’ or ‘it’s a broken neck.’ In a way, it’s like art therapy for doctors.”

As a result, for the past five years, Meyer has served as a guest artist at the UCLA’s medical school, a position he carved out and created for himself, curating artist talks and exhibitions that serve to educate the medical staff. In particular, Meyer’s programming is designed for first and second year medical students, most of whom have not yet had an opportunity to work with patients in person. To provide future doctors with more tangible understanding of living with certain afflictions, artists speak about their condition, their artworks, and the relationship between the two.


Susan Trachman, Order #2
Susan has MS and does work about organization and control as she has less control over her body. He media is all the old medical supplies used in her treatment
Mainly, his position entails recruiting and curating a network of artists exploring issues of illness and identity, inviting them to show their work and tell their stories. The conditions represented are as diverse as the artistic media explored. “There is a woman Susan who has multiple sclerosis,” Meyer said, “and for 25 years she’s been keeping all the bottles she’s used — all the saline and everything — she takes them and she organizes them in patterns. She explained to the medical students that when you have MS you have absolutely no control over your body. You can’t predict your own movements. But by organizing these bottles, she had found one area she could control.”

Meyer’s program caters to doctors who, though familiar with all the technicalities of medical proceedings, aren’t as well versed in the human aspects of the profession. “There are a number of doctors who are very smart but when they get on the floor and have to start dealing with patients they break down,” he said. Especially today, many doctors don’t have the proper time to truly get to know their patients, the ways their various struggles have shaped the people they are.

“There was another woman who had a headache for around four years. During that period she had lost her ability to name things, she couldn’t remember the nouns. When she finally got rid of her migraine, she went back and photographed all the things she couldn’t remember. For someone to tell their story to first year med students — it’s not just, ‘Oh, you have a headache, what medicine should I give you?’ It’s a new way to understand the life process of living with an illness.”

Meyer’s unorthodox merging of art and medicine proves that art therapy isn’t only helpful for patients, but doctors as well. “It’s a new way to connect,” Meyer said. “We are making positive things out of these horrible situations.”