Center Stage Arts in Health
Nourishing well-being through the arts
Our programs humanize the health care experience. We integrate the healing power of art, music, and creativity at Penn State Health. Art is deeply rooted in traditions across all faiths and cultures and often brings forth healing and comfort. We strive to provide patients and families with opportunities to stay connected to their traditions throughout their journey to health and wellness
Center Stage offers a variety of free art making and live music programs for Penn State Cancer Institute (PSCI) patients, caregivers, and staff – all designed to transform the cancer care experience. The objective is to give our patients, caregivers, and staff opportunities to nurture self-care habits and build community with each other through the healing power of the arts.
We hire regional professional artists to teach workshops, perform, and live paint on site each month. Additionally, we have a credentialed Art Therapist on staff, who provides individual art therapy sessions on a referral basis to admitted patients and their family caregivers in the PSCI.
Center Stage proudly plays an instrumental role in large scale PSCI events such as Caregivers Week and Survivorship Day. These events bring together everyone our PSCI community in their shared experiences of recovery to foster an uplifting atmosphere. All of these programs are fully sponsored by the PSCI, with the belief that thoughtfully chosen artistic engagement is an integral part of health and well-being.
“Art making has also always been my own means of coping and self-expression. Using art, I am gifted with an opportunity to teach patients new skills, gain insights about themselves they may not have previously known or even forgot about, and cope with illnesses,”
~ Alexis Lombardo, MA, ATR-BC. –Art Therapist
Art therapy is an evidenced-based, credentialed practice that supports the emotional, physical, social and spiritual well-being of patients of all ages. Therapeutic art-making takes place within a professional relationship.. They carefully select and offer art materials that are aligned to the patient’s needs.
Patients do not need to have any previous artistic experience to benefit from art therapy. Reflection on the art materials and creative processes allows individuals to gain insight to themselves, others and their experiences.
Art therapy also provides patients with opportunities for creative self-expression and relaxation to support them in coping with symptoms, pain and the stress associated with a medical diagnosis. Through the work created in art therapy sessions, patients receive a visual and personalized history of their journey and growth through illness or hospitalizations.
Individual art therapy sessions are currently provided on a referral basis throughout Penn State Children’s Hospital and admitted patients of PSCI.
“This was a lovely performance – it included pieces of music across all ages – timeless in their choices. I can honestly say that their performance created a peaceful feeling not often found in a hospital setting. Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness.”
– Family Member, Seasons
On any given day in many of the PSCI lobbies and waiting areas visitors may hear live music or watch an artist paint. Our canvas is a ceiling tile that will be installed in patient treatment areas. Regional professional artists perform and live paint on site each month to foster relaxation, pleasant distraction, and community building using the arts as a vehicle.
We have partnered with PSCI support groups to offer monthly art workshops to PSCI patients and their caregivers before their regular meetings. These workshops are open to all patients and caregivers, not just group members, designed for all levels and abilities. These sessions focus on wellness rather than therapy. We deliberately choose accomplished artists who are excellent teachers and lead engaging projects in order to keep the workshops non-clinical and fresh.
Music in Rhythm Workshop with Jay Umble
This interactive music workshop explores one’s natural inner sense of rhythm through the use of traditional and non-traditional instruments. Class instructor Jay Umble guides participants through various rhythm activities and proves that there are no mistakes when making music!
“Very talented: relaxing: had us uncoordinated people playing in time together by the end!”
~ Patient, Music in Rhythm Workshop
Guitarist, composer and educator Jay Umble is the author of several jazz guitar books. Heis a featured instructor on online jazz education site Mike’s Master classes. Jay is also an adjunct faculty member of Bucknell University and Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.
Joyful Movement with Judith Sachs
This series offers cancer patients and their caregivers the opportunity to move, as a way to enjoy the rediscovery of body and breath. Individualized sessions are offered monthly to those in Infusion Therapy to help relieve stress and pass the time while they are getting their treatments. Dancing in a bed or chair, supported by holding the chair or standing free, they move to music from Doo Wap to Motown and from Classical to Folk. These sessions are designed to help improve breathing, enhance self-confidence and grace, and most of all foster joy.
“Excellent, uplifting, the best I’ve felt in 3 months. Want to do it more and it really helps with chemo treatments.”
“That was fun, that was so much fun! At first I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I said to myself just go ahead and try, and I loved it!
She’s amazing, thank you!”
– patient, Joyful Movement session
Judith is a trained professional dancer, founder of Anyone Can Dance®
Teacher of Dance for Parkinsons®. The daughter and granddaughter of physicians, she is delighted to share her joy of movement with dancers of all abilities and backgrounds.
Judith is a Lifetime Arts Teaching Artist.
Yoga Workshop with Stephanie Trump Johnston
These beginner level yoga classes, focus on relaxing one’s body and mind. A series of simple breathing practices, movements, and stretches allow the muscles and joints to release tension and the mind to experience a deeper sense of calm and well-being. No yoga skills or experience is required and all abilities are accommodated, as modifications to the poses are encouraged based on range of mobility and comfort level. This workshop is a safe place for exploration and discovery, where learning and listening to one’s body take the forefront.
Stephanie Trump Johnston, MS, MA, E-RYT 500
Stephanie began her professional career as a Speech Language Pathologist and spent more than 25 years specializing in the treatment of adults with neurological problems such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia. She earned her initial Yoga Teacher Certification at the Peachtree Yoga Center in Atlanta in 2000. She offers styles including Integral Yoga, Yin Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and the Himalayan Institute. She earned a Masters degree in Psychology from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology and has a particular interest in the relationship between psychological and yogic theories.
Yoga Workshop with Dan Coma
“Absolutely loved learning to control breathing, stretching, and the overall relaxation. Loved the harp as well! Wish it were more often than once a month.”
– Patient, Yoga workshop
Dan Coma, E-RYT-200, C-IAYT, Yoga Therapist
Dan is a specially trained Certified Yoga Therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). He has been practicing yoga for 30 years and works with individuals and groups. He is available to coordinate therapy with physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.
Dan teaches at the University Fitness Center at Penn State Hershey, where he helps people dealing with the challenges of health conditions such as cancer, anxiety, insomnia, and complex conditions. He is trained in Kundalini Yoga Therapy and draws from the ancient wisdom of that tradition along with other evidence-informed practices that scientific studies suggest can help people on their healing journey. Dan completed his yoga therapy training with Dr. Shanti Shanti Kaur through the Guru Ram Das Center.
Painting Workshop with Mary Fusco
Throughout this workshop, Mary provides step-by-step instruction to guide participants to completion of a personalized painting by the workshop’s end. Everyone paints the same image together, and yet everyone’s painting looks different in the end showcasing their unique vision and style. All materials are provided and artistic skills are not necessary, rather simply an openness to lighthearted artistic exploration.
“I was just looking to relax mainly, but the step by step instructions actually helped me learn some basics, which was really fun!”
– patient, Painting Workshop
Mary R. Fusco is a self-directed artist who works primarily with acrylics. Mary’s fondest joy is to paint for treatment and healing spaces. As a volunteer for Center Stage at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, she paints soothing scenes and colorful abstracts on individual ceiling tiles for patient rooms and treatment areas. Mary works professionally as creative director for the Lancaster-based furniture store, INTERIORS HOME. She is an ordained deacon of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Harrisburg, where she also serves on the praise, arts, and ministry training teams. She is a founding member of 61 Arts, a Christian painting group based in Central Pennsylvania.
Weaving Workshop with Judeth Pekala Hawkins
In this weaving workshop, students are encouraged to take artistic risks as they discover their personal style. Making art requires us to be totally present with process. Delving into the depths of the present moment and using that time and space to create, is a restorative process. Mats, bags, and bookmarks are all woven on personally handmade cardboard looms in a rhythmic fashion.
“Judeth was wonderful, kind, and patient with all the ladies. The tone allowed everyone to relax and put everything in their lives aside for an hour and a half, which is much needed.”
– patient, Weaving Workshop
Mandala Workshop with Judeth Pekala Hawkins
Mandalas are circular designs, with a center around which revolves an organized, repeating design. In Sanskrit, the word mandala means “circle.” The circular design of the mandala represents wholeness and symbolizes unity in the world and unity in our personal lives. Participants are introduced to mandala design, learn its history and uses, and then create their own mandalas. The language of color and shape, the art principles of balance and emphasis, as well as new techniques with colored pencils are also gained as the mandalas are created.
“I was mentally uplifted after attending this session. It was really peaceful to create these.”
Judeth Pekala Hawkins
Judeth is a professional visual artist whose intensely personal work and unmistakable style has been recognized and awarded throughout the Mid Atlantic states. She balances the solitude of personal studio work with the excitement of creating alongside others as a teaching artist. She is rostered with the PA Council for the Arts and holds a certificate from the National Center for Creative Aging. www.judethpekalahawkins.com
We offer PSCI physicians, nurses, and inpatient staff an adjusted workshop model that includes live music, chair massage, and a short art-making project for them to enjoy a period of relaxation during their shifts. Such a reprieve, interjected in what very well may be a demanding shift, may help to combat the ever present problem of burnout and promote professional resilience.
“This was a perfect time for me to have one of these sessions as I was having a very stressful night and it helped me regroup and gather myself. I am so glad this is offered to night shift.”
“It was very nice to focus on something other than work, Lunch time isn’t always distracting enough to refresh you for the afternoon. But that helped me even for just 10 or 15 mins to focus on me and helped me recharge my batteries.”
Art Care Workshop participants
Learn more about Penn State Cancer Institute Arts in Health programs or register for an event by emailing us at email@example.com
Find the current programs and events on the Center Stage website: