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  • Writer's pictureIPH Staff

IPH and Albany Medical College partner on therapeutic art program

Albany Medical College students conduct a watercolor painting workshop with IPH guests.

Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH) and Albany Medical College have formed a unique partnership to offer individuals experiencing homelessness a creative outlet to express their feelings through artwork.

The Empowering Arts program is a series of bi-weekly art workshops hosted by Albany Medical College students at IPH’s Community Connections daytime drop-in center. During the sessions, individuals experiencing homelessness have the opportunity to explore various artistic mediums, such as watercolor painting, dance and jewelry making.

Designed to support creative expression, community participation, stress reduction and self-esteem amongst IPH guests, the program also provides Albany Medical College students with a greater understanding of homelessness.

“IPH is thrilled to provide our guests with the opportunity to explore their artistic talents through this innovative and meaningful partnership with Albany Medical College,” said IPH Executive Director Janine Robitaille. “Art is an empowering and engaging medium, especially for our most vulnerable community members. Studies have shown that arts programming can help individuals who are homeless explore their feelings, improve their mental health and engage with their community. We thank Albany Medical College for their support in bringing this truly impactful program to our guests.”

IPH guest Kattie shows the watercolor painting she designed during the Empowering Arts workshop.

The Empowering Arts program is part of Albany Medical College’s service learning curriculum, which exposes students to the challenges facing underserved populations while strengthening their compassion and commitment to improving the health of their community.

“Empowering Arts was born out of a desire to help serve our community and promote medical student involvement with and understanding of homelessness in Albany,” said Albany Medical College student Shivali Gupta, who serves on the Empowering Arts leadership committee. “It has been a wonderful experience working with IPH to grow this program and learn the best ways to use art as a form of expression and community building. Being able to share our own artistic passions while listening to others’ stories exemplifies our collaboration with IPH. We have enjoyed each of our sessions with the guests at IPH and look forward to continuing this partnership.”

“The care and compassion our students have shown in developing and implementing this program is truly inspiring,” said Kate Wagner, MD, vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Albany Medical College and faculty advisor for the Empowering Arts Program. “The students’ ability to learn from and engage with some of the most vulnerable members of our community is not only impacting the clients themselves but is preparing the students in a unique way to be better physicians in the future.”

IPH guest Chris draws the outline for a painting based on music album artwork during the Empowering Arts workshop.

The Empowering Arts program is one of numerous enrichment activities and educational opportunities offered by IPH’s Community Connections program.

“Activities like Empowering Arts teach our guests about so much more than painting,” said IPH Community Coordinator Skylin Baestlein. “These types of programs provide a safe environment for self-expression and individuality, while building life skills and interpersonal communication.”

The Empowering Arts program is anticipated to continue through the remainder of 2022. Future sessions will focus on knitting, origami and Irish step dance.

The Community Connections program at IPH provides homeless individuals and low-income families with no-cost access to vital resources, including hot meals, food, clothing, laundry, showers, lockers, mailboxes, case management and housing assistance, as well as enrichment programs and activities. The program served approximately 1,000 guests in 2021.

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