Programs that foster creative activities such as drawing, creative writing, and making music are increasing in US hospitals. They are facilitated by licensed therapists, by professional artists, musicians or poets, or by physicians. This work explores why and how these practices intersect with biomedical activities in US hospitals. This study finds that these programs are valued for their support of biomedical care practices, their positive psycho-social effects, and their economic benefit. This study also finds that certain arts activities are structured to disrupt the positivist nature of biomedical logic and celebrate uncertainty. Arts activities provide a space for physicians to attend to story, build empathy, and take time for reflection. Finally, art-making activities are meaningful for patients at the end of life. They document and validate social relationships, decrease pain, and often result in the creation of a legacy object. Through creating these objects, patients often create a script for grief which patients and their family members find meaningful. This work also documents several tensions in the field of arts and healthcare, such as who can facilitate these activities (licensed art therapist or professional artist or both), and what evidence is valued to prove the effectiveness of these programs.
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