Celebrating 30 years of The Creative Center

By Melissa Aase, CEO of University Settlement


The Creative Center at University Settlement brings art-making into healthcare and creative aging settings, creating powerful benefits for participants

Every year 10 Hospital Artists-in-Residence partner with more than 3,000 neighbors living with cancer and chronic illnesses and their caregivers

You’re invited to The Creative Center’s 30th Birthday Party!  

“Medicine cures the body, but art heals the spirit.”

For people living with cancer and other chronic illnesses, medicine and art each have a demonstrable impact on health and well-being.

If this seems like a simple insight, that’s a testament to the way our program The Creative Center changed the world – when it was founded 30 years ago, the idea that bringing the arts into healthcare settings would significantly benefit patients was often dismissed out of hand.

But creative expression brings self-knowledge and helps people build community – powerful resources for anyone who finds themselves experiencing health challenges or caring for someone who is. Today, The Creative Center’s 10 Hospital Artists-in-Residence partner with 3,000 of our neighbors in this work every year.

On March 9, we’re celebrating TCC’s 30th Birthday, and you’re invited!

Sheila Fontanive, who leads this work for us, reflected on the world TCC has built:

We’re not trying to train people to be professional artists – we’re helping people who are going through an alienating and scary experience connect to themselves outside of their illness, express themselves creatively, and reinvigorate their sense of self.

We’ve been making the case for arts in healthcare for 30 years, and our team wrote the book on this 20 years ago – still, art is not always valued or understood in these settings. But there’s so much power in finding ways to connect to ourselves and our identities. Navigating the bureaucracy of health insurance and doctors can cause you to lose your sense of self. Art is a way to find something bigger, to find meaning in hard circumstances.

In hospitals, our program is geared toward people going through cancer and to hospital staff. Many of our community members have been with us for anywhere from 5 to more than 20 years, which is so powerful.

When we became part of University Settlement in 2011, we were thrilled to expand this work into programming for older adults and build the field of creative aging from our new home.

We’re partnering with people to build new skills as a space away from illness. Feeling inspired, connecting to community, and engaging with a new sense of purpose are important ways that people survive cancer and go on to thrive again in their lives.

We’re celebrating our birthday during our annual Training Institute for Arts-in-Healthcare and Creative Aging, which has trained thousands of healthcare professionals in our best practices model over the last 21 years.

We hope you’ll join us to celebrate our community and our collective impact!

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