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Artist-In-Residence program offers hospital patients a creative outlet

Ricardo Paredes is an artist through and through, bringing his own pizzazz to his projects. It’s an outlet, an escape, for him.

“I like a lot of abstract, stuff that speaks to you on a different level,” Paredes said. “If it wasn’t for art I don’t know, it really helped me to come out. It helped me a lot with different moods, pain.”

The 42-year-old has battled sickle cell anemia his entire life and regularly comes to Mount Sinai West for treatment.

“I was coming here for blood transfusions, and then I got diagnosed with PulmonicHypertension,” he said.

He, along with hundreds of other patients, is exploring his creativity with through an Artist-In Residence program.

Making these moments possible is the Creative Center at University Settlement. Robin Glazer co-founded the nonprofit in 1994, after her own battle with cancer.

“Nothing helped me as much as letting my mind go,” Glazer said.

The organization offers free on-site workshops at its lower east side campus and hospital in-resident programs in more than 30 sites across the city, giving more than 25,000 people a year the chance to rediscover their voice.

“We do know that choice is something is taken away from you when you become a patient and we want to give that back. And that is what art is,” Glazer said.

The result is quite remarkable as it helps the healing process.

“So it has no impact on the disease itself, however, the coping mechanism has a lot of spiritual, mental, emotional component. And that part, is where the art has an amazing role,” said Dr. Gabriel Sara.

“They come here nervous and sort of anxious and leave like happy. It changes their life they continue this outside of here, which is pretty awesome,” said teaching artist Nikki Schiro.

Artists in residence like Nikki provide encouragement and an empathetic ear.

“Nikki is the greatest. She’s just a great therapist. Things that I don’t say to other

people, I can speak to her about,” said Paredes.

As you walk through the halls, patient artwork lines the walls.

“There are people here who sometimes work on a painting and pass away the next day,” said Glazer.

Every piece is a subtle reminder of how fragile, yet beautiful life is.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future … so we just got to be happy,” said Paredes.