Creativity and Health
Creative expression is the gift that will heal the world.
Our current social system is disconnected. We’ve been taught to turn away from the arts as a means to be a more “productive” member of society. But this philosophy is intrinsically flawed, and has come at a great cost—we are disengaged from one another, and ourselves.
Along the way, we’ve lost connection with a foundational part of our human essence—our inner artist. For there is a creative in every single one of us—one whose creative fire was dampened the moment we were told to put down our crayons and fingerpaints.
As adults, we are on a journey to rediscover our inner artist. We’d love for you to join us.
Rediscover fun and play through expressive arts.
Our Story: Healing Arts Reconciling Peoples
Meet John and Dorothy
Here are two things you need to know about them:
- They want to die poor.
- They believe the healing arts can change the world.
If you’re on board with this, then you’re in great company!
John and Dorothy are on a lifelong mission to connect our broken world through the power of the healing arts. That’s why they started Healing Arts Reconciling People—HARP—a multimedia and publishing press in 2019.
Today, their combined experience in arts and health inspired them to launch a movement by connecting communities and encouraging everyday acts of creative expression.
A lifetime of medical service to the living and dying of young cancer patients, John Graham-Pole graduated as Doctor Graham-Pole in 1966 from the University of London’s St. Bartholomew’s Medical School. He would go on to perform groundbreaking treatments for the first time in North America – exhibiting a fearlessness in thought, perspective, voice and action that would define his medical career.
The art of humility is at the core of John’s personal and professional life. Listening, learning from and adapting to the wisdom of nurses, his patients and their families made Dr. Graham-Pole a unique outlier in a strongly hierarchical and illness-focused medical establishment.
Nurses taught him the role of art in healing and he set about living a life that put their teaching into his actions. In 1991 he co-founded Shands Arts in Medicine and three years later he co-founded the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida. Here he would positively impact the healing journey of guests from around the globe – including his future wife and HARP Co-Founder Dorthy Lander.
John is fond of saying “we may not know where we are going – but we are not lost” – showcasing a perspective that shapes his approach to everyday challenges and existential crises alike. A climate activist, gardener and thinker, John’s latest published effort Grace Notes on Nursing is an ode to the powerful lessons he learned over his career from the wisdom of nurses and their healing ways.
Dorothy, before naming it, was a longtime practitioner of the healing arts through her professional work as manager of service operations at StFX University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her focus and attention to the meaningful details of campus life turned residence halls into warm homes for generations of learners and academics alike. The art of service, a devotion to caring for others, defined her primary career.
Upon retirement and subsequent rebirth as an accomplished academic voice in her own right, Dorothy was visited by the grief of death – losing her husband to illness. This loss, and the emotional journey it sparked, brought Dorothy to the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine. There she would meet the Center’s founder – John Graham-Pole while uncovering a version of herself she’d only known sparingly – an artist. As her artistic practice grew so too did her relationship with John. Later, John would leave Florida for Canada and the quiet solitude of life with Dorothy in the small town of Antigonish.
Today, as co-founder of the HARP movement and HARP publishing, Dorothy is a deeply thoughtful and caring voice who supports emerging artists and writers in their own healing and often publishing journey. Her first publication, The People’s Photo Album, explored the globally impactful history of the StFX University Extension Department, the Sisters of Saint Martha and the co-operative moment made famous by Father Moses Coady and the Coady Institute that bears his name.
Dorothy, in addition to reading, writing, editing, gardening and community building, finds healing in the artistic fun of collecting, pressing and then shaping flowers. A recent work featured an assortment of pressed petals shaped to form a tent – emblematic of where she found each petal, a makeshift outdoor encampment for those experiencing homelessness.
HARP is Dorothy and John’s gift to the world, hoping to leave the planet better off than they found it.