Grant helps Holter expand Healing Arts Program
Gomez, Czelsi
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Grant helps Holter expand Healing Arts Program

Research shows viewing and creating art provides a positive diversion, inspires hope and contributes to a healing atmosphere. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) hopes a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® grant to the Holter Healing Arts Program will extend the health benefits of art to a broader population.

“My heart is racing a thousand miles an hour,” said Chris Riccardo, executive director of the Holter Museum of Art, after receiving the grant in August. “We strongly believe that art can help heal. It has taken us four years of careful collaboration with our partners and it’s so exciting to see people benefit from these programs.”

The Holter created Operation Healing Arts in 2014 as the umbrella for all its healing arts programs, which were developed to address the health of the human body and spirit through the presence of art, artists and art experiences. The Holter launched the Healing Arts Program in partnership with St. Peter’s Health in 2019 with the goal of introducing it to other healthcare facilities and institutions in Helena and across Montana.

The Healing Arts Program currently consists of four components: a Holter Mini-Museum, Maker Stations, Holter Art Cart and a Mobile Museum Onsite.

Riccardo says the idea of introducing an Art Cart, equipped with art-making supplies, was born “some years back when my father was battling cancer and I would spend countless hours in waiting rooms watching patients and families with nothing to do.”

“I thought how great it would be if I had art supplies with me and I could help them be creative and hopefully make time go by a little more quickly,” he says.

Likewise, program director Nicole Keintz has a very personal connection to healing and art. The Montana native decided to pursue a career in photography after having surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in 2009 renewed her appreciation for life. Her career was beginning to take off when an MRI in 2016 revealed the tumor had grown back.

After enduring a second surgery, and facing another long recovery, and the associated physical and cognitive challenges, “Art was an essential ally in my journey to wellness,” she writes.

As director and co-creator of the Holter’s program, Keintz has an opportunity to share her “experiences, positivity and the healing power of art with those who need it most.”

The collaborative between the Holter Museum and St. Peter’s is intended to benefit patients, caregivers, medical staff and the community at large, and serve as a pilot program to test and refine the Healing Arts Program’s components.

“St. Peter’s is already asking for more art carts and more maker stations,” says Riccardo. “Other health organizations in town are seeing what is happening and they want to be involved.”

 “We want to help connect more people in our community,” he added. “We couldn’t do it without this grant.”

Already, the staff is working with the Helena-based PureView Medical Center on ways to integrate the arts into their facilities. Ultimately, the hope is that the program helps address the need for low-cost alternatives to treat anxiety, depression and other illnesses.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) is a signature program of BCBSMT and part of an ongoing commitment to invest in, and partner with, like-minded nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas: nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention. The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.

“The Holter Museum has been at the forefront of exploring the healing power of the arts,” said John Doran, divisional vice president of external affairs at BCBSMT. “Together with St. Peter’s Hospital, the Holter is proving that emotional healing through art can also speed physical healing. It’s a concept we are eager to see come to life here in Helena.”


Photo: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana’s Corey Palmer, left, presents the Holter Museum of Art’s Chris Riccardo with a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant.




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