Updated: Oct 19, 2020
10 years ago, RaNae Couture first sat down with the ACT team to plan a unique expressive art program for her patients. Couture has been the facilitator of Expressive Arts at Spectrum Health for the past 13 years, giving patients and residents the opportunity to engage in classes, workshops, and painting sessions at four Spectrum Health locations, including Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center at Fuller Avenue, Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center at Kalamazoo Avenue, Spectrum Health Neuro and Rehabilitation Services Residential. But out of all the art projects offered from pottery to jewelry making, Couture knew music was missing.
Couture's art classes reach patients and residents with a wide range of illnesses. Several of the rehabilitation centers have individuals suffering from stokes, Parkinson's disease, physical
injuries, and diabetes complications. She also works with cancer patients, patients with mental illness, and veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.
During art sessions, Couture had gotten into the habit of playing a variety of music for the
residents' tastes. Through their favorite songs, Couture learned more about their lives and further studied the positive impact music has on their health.
"One individual, when she is doing her art, I try and play specifically the music that I found out she really likes. It just uplifts her so much. She actually has some memory issues and she
actually says how much it helps her memory get better when she's doing art and listening to
This led to a new class in partnership with ACT this past spring, Mindfulness Music, taught by
John Nowak. One Thursday morning each month, Couture prepares for the class by checking that the rooms are still available, class participants are getting ready, all the systems are working properly, communicating to other staff members about the class, and checks that John is ready virtually through Microsoft Teams.
The biggest impact Couture can recall from these sessions is the conversation. She believes
surrounding the residents and patients with a community outside of those who work in the
hospital combat feelings of loneliness, helps them stay motivated, and builds their confidence.
"In teaching music classes through ACT and specifically the Mindfulness Music class at
Spectrum Health I am constantly reminded of the power music has to influence our emotions, memories, and attitudes throughout the day. My favorite thing is to listen to and perform songs that bring back memories for people and to engage in a meaningful discussion about the music and our life experiences. To listen or to perform music mindfully means to allow the present moment to take over your soul and mind and immerse yourself in the sounds and people around you. For an hour a week, I feel honored to provide a soundscape for the residents at Spectrum Health to not worry about their treatments, daily struggles, or other circumstances that may (weigh) heavy on them. Through this class I have learned that no matter what your condition is mentally or physically, music has the power to bring you back to the present moment and to fill your heart and soul with nostalgia, happiness, and joy," Nowak said.
The Expressive Arts program at Spectrum Health offers dozens of art mediums to choose from including pottery, jewelry making, creative writing and poetry, painting, pastel, watercolor, drawing, textile art, creative yoga, along with a virtual tour of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. With several avenues of creativity to choose from with the addition of music, patients and residents are encouraged to follow their passions and use their gifts.