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Local Volunteer Lifts Patients’ Spirits with Art

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — A picture really is worth a thousand words, if you are referring to the art prints that are part of the Aranow Art Cart program at Northern Westchester Hospital , founded by Vicki Aranow Feiner.

The Art Cart program, which allows patients to choose a colorful print depicting scenes of travel, sports, nature or even pets to hang on the walls of their hospital rooms, was launched three years ago. In that time, Feiner said, it has helped lift patients’ spirits by allowing them a distraction from the sterile hospital environs.

A few times a week, a volunteer brings a catalog of all the art available into each patient’s room, makes note of the artwork in the frame that hangs in front of the bed, and asks the patient if he or she would like a change of scenery.

“The conversations we have when a patient chooses a print are very important, because all of a sudden, an individual has invited you to learn about their past, memories, the trips they have taken and more,” said Feiner, a Chappaqua resident and trained social worker.

For example, Feiner said she often gets requests for one particular warm-weather picture, which shows a beach chair in front of an ocean. She said she has gotten comments from patients who say they know exactly where the canvas was painted — some say Florida, while others are certain it’s the Jersey Shore, Puerto Rico, Hawaii or even Cape Cod.

“The Art Cart also allows them to make a choice in a setting where they have so few opportunities to do so,” Feiner said as she flipped through the catalog of more than 75 prints.

“The art selected is meaningful to the patient, which will allow their minds to expand outside of the hospital room.” In addition, Feiner added, “Engaging the patients in a non-medical conversation transforms the mood leading to lower stress and anxiety which has significant benefits.”

For travelers, she has a painting of Paris on file, which sometimes makes her a bit teary because it reminds her of her late mother, who loved the city and directly influenced her idea for the Art Cart.

"When my mother was in another hospital, there was nothing in the room, and she hated it," Feiner said. "There was nothing she could relate to that would send her mind out of the room for a bit."

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