December 11, 2015

Lifesaving scrubs repurposed as art to celebrate UAB Women and Infants Center anniversary

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As the year draws to a close, UAB News looks back at some of the top stories of 2015. See them all here.


WIC sewingMore than 100 people from UAB Arts in Medicine and the UAB Women and Infants Center family have worked lovingly since March to create two quilts constructed almost entirely from scrubs donated by the nursing staff.  Scrubs worn by staff as they worked to nurture and save lives have now become a work of art installed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Women and Infants Center.

More than 100 people from UAB Arts in Medicine and the UAB Women and Infants Center family have worked lovingly since March to create two quilts constructed almost entirely from scrubs donated by the nursing staff. The quilts are intended to celebrate the Women and Infants Center community, including patients, families, nurses, doctors, staff and guests.

The project, titled “Compassionate Pieces: A Community Quilt Project,” was created by UAB Arts in Medicine to celebrate the work of the center since its opening five years ago.

The quilts, one featuring the silhouettes of a mother and child and another of a patient and caregiver, were unveiled at a ceremony Thursday, Dec. 17, in the UAB Women and Infants Center, 2nd Floor Lobby, 1700 Sixth Ave. South. The unveiling was accompanied by a small exhibition of artwork created by patients, staff and guests of UAB Hospital.

UAB AIM Artist-in-Residence Lillis Taylor designed the quilts and led the construction and finishing work. Taylor is a textile artist, quilter, and executive director of Bib & Tucker Sew-Op, and a teaching artist with ArtPlay, the education and outreach program of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.

“Earlier this year, along with WIC R.N. Sandra Holt Milstead, AIM Director of Programming Kimberly Kirklin and many other amazing staff members of the Women and Infants Center, we dreamed up a community quilt project to commemorate the fifth anniversary of WIC,” Taylor said. “Many patients, family members, staff members and visitors have assisted in completing this project. Now all of this hard work has become beautiful quilts.

“Many of the people who helped bring this project to life have also agreed to share artwork they made in AIM workshops, so we invite everyone to celebrate with us.”

The quilts are composed of scores of “hexies,” small pieces of fabric folded and hand-stitched into a hexagon. The hospital had changed over to color-coded scrubs to differentiate the staff areas. Now each department has its own color; but before the change to the new system, there were several years’ worth of uniforms, Taylor says.

aim quiltThe quilts are composed of scores of “hexies,” small pieces of fabric folded and hand-stitched into a hexagon.  “Sandra brought up a good question: ‘What can we do with that many scrubs?’ Taylor said. “One conversation led to another, ideas started to bloom, and the next thing I knew, we were planning a 10-foot-by-5-foot community quilt to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the WIC building.”

Research shows that patients, family members and staff members can benefit greatly from peer support networks, particularly through arts-based activities, Kirklin says. Patients and families can also improve their health care experience and medical treatment when they feel supported by their care team. Furthermore, art-making can evoke meaning-making, empathy and openness in the participant while reducing stress. Overall, group art-making can provide participants with a relaxing, positive, uplifting and supportive experience.

About half of American hospitals have some form of arts programming. Most take the form of art or music therapy, where trained professionals work with patients to achieve specific therapeutic goals. UAB Hospital has had a music therapy program for 15 years. But a growing number of medical centers — UAB Hospital is the first in Alabama — also are implementing the more comprehensive AIM model.

UAB’s seven artists-in-residence for AIM include actors, a playwright, a sculptor, a painter, a textile artist, musician and a dancer, and they “provide creative experiences and positive distractions,” said Kirklin, AIM’s director of Programming. “These might include a patient’s making a piece of art or participating in an arts activity, or simply enjoying a performance.” Such moments of inspiration and engagement can benefit patients both physically and mentally and work wonders for their spirit.

“This brings to UAB Medicine the side of healing that isn’t science,” said Jordan DeMoss, senior associate vice president for UAB Hospital.