Regina Holliday’s The Walking Gallery: Connecting the Dots Between Policy and Patients

Sometimes the tendency to wear your heart on your sleeve, to openly express your emotions, can be suffocated by  the medical profession. But wearing your heart on your back is becoming increasingly appreciated.

The Walking Gallery is “the Gallery that walks. The Patients that wear our stories on our back” (Holliday).

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

It’s this revolutionary idea that art can provide a window into the patient experience, one that can be displayed by the clothes on a person’s back. This offers mobility to art, a method of transportation that escapes the confinements of wall hangings and pervades into inevitable lines of vision. This increased accessibility allows “patients,” as embodied by this artwork, to enter into places and discussions that they have never before been a part of. Now, patient experiences can be visible and  actively remembered in the decision spaces  that often influence but do not include patients.

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

The work of Regina Holliday, the artist who brought this exhibit of sorts to life, is inspirational. She not only has a way with art, but also a way with language: her overwhelmingly powerful talk at Stanford incredibly moved me, and she has piqued my interest in exploring the place of art in medicine. Holliday is one of the first artists that I’ve come across in the field of patient advocacy, and her creations have gathered incredible force for this movement.

What I love about the Walking Gallery is that it takes a step forward to putting a story to the patient experience. These jackets and the images that they bear evoke emotions buried within medicine.  And The Walking Gallery is not limited to patients: physicians, policy makers, and others associated with health care all have stories to share. Despite the distinct roles in medicine, art overcomes these boundaries with brushstrokes and splashes of color. We can wear our experiences, the good and the bad and the in-between, the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and trials. Boldly.

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Filed under Visualizing Illness

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