Arts for Life

Arts for Life

3:02pm Feb 25, 2013
Arts for Life Colin Allured works with a young patient.

Chemotherapy, radiation, and daily injections are frightening propositions for anyone, but especially for child patients. One non-profit organization in North Carolina is using music, poetry and art to empower children in their fight against cancer. 

Arts for Life (AFL) creates pediatric clinic art programs, patient and family art support groups, and inpatient art programs. The organization is staffed by artists and educators who teach music, visual arts, and creative writing to children and teen patients who have serious and chronic illnesses. Instruction is given to patients seven days a week, in each of four different hospital sites: Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, Mission Hospital in Asheville, Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, and Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center in Durham. Last year AFL teachers worked with more than 4,500 patients.


Arts for Life  is having a profound impact on young cancer patients, their families, physicians and the AFL instructors themselves. For example, eleven year old former Arts for Life patient Westley McCormick describes what it was like when he first arrived in the hospital for cancer treatments at the age of six. Westley felt scared, exhausted and powerless. He withdrew and cried before every blood draw and chemotherapy session.

AFL arts instructor Lauren Ling talks about how, through painting and collage, and allowing the children to choose their own materials, projects, etc., they slowly come out of their shell and begin to feel like they’re taking some control of their situation. Parents talk about how AFL allows them to more easily network with other parents, sharing their experiences and remedies to cope with the physical and psychological side effects of cancer treatment.

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