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Aerial view of the CHLA Anderson Pavilion Building.

Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program

At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, bandages, medicines and compassionate clinicians are not the only things relied upon for patients to heal. At the Mark Taper - Johnny Mercer Artists Program, we also use paint, markers, musical instruments and movement to heal the whole child. To do this, we rely on art, dance, drama, music and expressive arts therapies. 

By serving the whole child, instead of just their symptoms of illness or injury, we help our patients achieve better health outcomes. Through art and music, we help them alleviate anxiety, provide psychological support and offer creative outlets for self-expression.

Unlike the traditional art and recreation programs found in many hospitals, our artists program is an innovative model that brings together local artists, performers, and teachers with registered and certified Expressive Arts Therapists to meet the diverse needs of our patient population. This multidisciplinary approach offers our patients something beyond diversionary arts and crafts projects. All the while, young participants in the program are nurturing a life-long appreciation for the arts.

Our art, music and dance/movement therapists host a drum circle during Creative Arts Therapy Week.

Program Aims

Our clinical goals in using expressive arts therapy for our patients are to:

  • Assist patients and families in expressing and exploring their thoughts and feelings related to illness and hospitalization
  • Encourage creative coping strategies for patients and families
  • Integrate into the hospital’s interdisciplinary treatment team by setting and achieving treatment goals

Other goals of the program include a desire to: 

  • Instill long-term appreciation for the arts
  • Normalize the hospital environment and facilitate relief for patients and families by providing entertaining, recreational and educational art experiences
  • Provide opportunities for artists, musicians, volunteers and students from the community to share their gifts and talents in the hospital

Expressive Arts Therapies

As part of our clinical vision, Expressive Arts Therapists—including art therapists, music therapists and dance/movement therapists—work as part of the hospital’s Family-Centered Care, multidisciplinary treatment team.

These Expressive Arts Therapists are trained to assist patients and families in building creative coping skills, exploring the thoughts and feelings related to hospitalization and illness, and utilizing the arts for exploration and self-expression.

In fact, Expressive Arts Therapists are such an integrated part of the treatment team, that any clinician can order art, music, or dance/movement therapy for a patient with the touch of a button in their electronic medical chart. We are also very proud to be a premier clinical training site for students in the Expressive Arts Therapy fields. 

We also conduct clinical research approved by our Internal Review Board and in accordance with our Human Subjects Protection Program in order to quantify our clinical outcomes and impact on patient care.

Program Impact

Since the program was founded in 1991, each year the Artists Program has reached thousands of children and families through:

  • Group workshops and therapy groups in inpatient playrooms and family lounges.
  • One-on-one and family interactions at bedside.
  • Educational opportunities and performances in outpatient clinics and waiting areas.
  • Pre-operative Expressive Arts Therapy Sessions.
  • Outdoor arts enrichment activities.

The children's creativity brightens the hospital surroundings with art and poetry prominent on the lobby's donor wall, throughout the hospital's hallways, and in the healing gardens.  

Education, Appreciation, and Performance

As part of our non-clinical vision, we collaborate with local volunteer groups to provide daily:

  • Art, music, dance, and theater arts/drama workshops
  • Art and music lessons and educational workshops 
  • Interactive music and dance performances throughout our inpatient and outpatient areas

Highly-respected professional artists and performers from the Los Angeles area offer entertainment, diversion, and education through workshops in both inpatient and outpatient patient care areas..

Patient Story: Camilla's First Smile

Born six weeks premature, Camilla (not her real name) was a patient in the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Just two weeks after she was born, a nurse requested that a music therapist work with Camilla to help her develop while she was confined to her incubator to keep her temperature, humidity and oxygen levels precisely perfect for her while she grew stronger yet prevented her parents from holding her in their arms. Camilla was not healthy enough to be held by either of them.

Through a translator, our music therapist and program lead, Alexandra Field, learned that Camilla's father had played music for her regularly while she was still in the womb and was desperate to hold his baby girl, to help her get better. Through the help of the music therapist, Camilla’s dad stood directly in front of the baby's incubator as she began to slowly play "La Bamba," Dad's favorite song to sing to her in the womb. The therapist matched the rhythm of the music to the baby’s breathing to help Camilla relax and then began to sing.

As Camilla lay in her incubator with her eyes closed, both her body and face appeared to relax. The therapist took this opportunity to ask Camilla’s dad to sing along. Almost immediately, Camilla’s eyes opened. She looked at her father and maintained eye contact with him. After he had been singing for a couple of minutes, she gave him a smile out of the corner of her mouth. “She has never smiled at me! This is the first time!” exclaimed her dad. By this point, several nurses had gathered to witness the amazing interaction. After so many days of feeling sad, helpless and overwhelmed, Camilla’s father was delighted to share this experience with his daughter.

Program Support

Because the type of support we provide is not reimbursed by insurance payers, our program is currently 100 percent philanthropically funded. Those who support the Mark Taper–Johnny Mercer Artists Program help introduce the healing power of the arts to thousands of young patients coping with illness and injury. You will help provide avenues of expression, choice, and control to children experiencing emotional pain and challenges.  

Donate Online
If you are interested in donating directly to the artists program, please click here and type in "Artists Program" after checking the box by "Specify a program for this gift to support".

Donate Directly Through Amazon
Select a paint set, canvas panels or paint brushes and your gift will be mailed directly to us. The Amazon link below shows our most up to date wish list.

Amazon Wish List

Volunteer Opportunities
If you or your community organization is interested in volunteering with the Artists Program, please check our Volunteer Opportunities webpage to find out more about our Volunteer Application and Interview Process. Other volunteer opportunities may be available, so feel free to inquire further by contacting the Artists Program Assistant.  

Clinical Training/Internship Opportunities

Under the supervision of credentialed professionals, interns and trainees from accredited institutions specifically in clinical art, music, or dance/movement therapy can gain valuable experience with patients by participating in our Expressive Arts Therapy Internship.