Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic

artistic antidote for a pandemic


In this uncertain, disorienting time, the arts can serve as a compass. The arts help us find direction and remind us that there is still solid ground beneath our feet and a steady horizon ahead of us. And so, those of us at the newly-formed Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota welcome you to join us for a daily Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic. 

These daily doses of poetry, prose, music, and art can be integrated into our clinical and self-care practices. In doing so, we hope they will:

CFAM Icons

At the end of 2020, we launched a collaboration between two CFAM initiatives: Artistic Antidote and Sharing Our Stories. Stories are one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, empathize, and to heal. Over the next few weeks, we're sharing stories submitted by our colleagues about how our lives and work as healthcare workers have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a story to share, or know someone else who does, please submit via this form. 

Becoming a Doctor + Sharing Our Stories Artistic Antidote

Spring is in the Air

On May 7th, our community celebrated with 4th year medical students as they walked across the stage, donned hoods, and officially became doctors. However, the process of becoming a doctor began long before that moment. In the brand new, first edition of "Becoming a Doctor at the University of Minnesota Medical School: An Anthology of Medical Student Stories" we catch glimpses of that journey. The anthology, published in April of 2021, is available online . The stories are all authored by U of M medical students, and the project was supported by a student editorial board and editorial advisors from the Department of Pediatrics faculty.
As Drs. A. Olson and Scheurer preface, the stories "are honest, optimistic, realistic, woeful, wondering, believing, doubting, persevering, joyful, and grieving. Said simply, they are real. They are complex and beautiful-- and deeply important. Just like the practice of medicine."  We will be sharing some of our favorite stories from this anthology throughout the month of May. 


Spring is in the Air by Jessica Flakne


Marcela Lorca

We connect with Marcela Lorca, Artistic Director for the Ten Thousand Things Theater Company based out of St. Paul, MN. Her lesson in self-care is one we can all practice: dance in nature like nobody's watching.

Daily Pause with Marcela Lorca


Rachel Swan

Many of us have been turning to the culinary arts to unwind and connect during the pandemic. For local "Pie Operating Officer" Rachel Swan, the pandemic has been a time for her to reconnect with what led her to open up Pie and Mighty in 2020: joy and love. 



Seitu Jones

Seitu Jones is a multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer known for his large-scale public artworks and environmental design. We couldn't wait to talk with him about what has been driving him creatively over the last few months.


Daily Pause with Seitu Jones


joy of practice

We offer up a unique pause from author Kate DiCamillo, who is one of six people to win two Newbery Medals. We are lucky to have her share her words of support with us at this time when we could all use some uplifting and encouragement.





Daily Pause with Kate DiCamillo


Do you have an original piece of poetry, brief prose, music or visual art that could serve as an Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic?  We welcome submissions from anyone reading this blog. Please submit your piece to for consideration and be sure to include your full name, credentials, and current role.  

In addition to the daily Artistic Antidotes, we sometimes will feature longer reflections about people’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have an essay you would like to submit for consideration, please send it to Again, please include your name, credentials, and current role.

Our hope is to compile a portion of the poetry, prose, artwork, and essays selected as Artistic Antidotes into an anthology at some point in the future.


flowery field paintingSomething about being in crisis and isolated from our normal routines triggers our brains to call up dark and dusty corners of our psyche we don’t usually see. In these corners live things like anxiety, gloom, and uneasiness.

Each of us has our own ways of dealing with these things and, for many of us, producing or experiencing art can provide the antidotes of pleasure, escape, and increased understanding.

For example, through the protagonist of Albert Camus’ The Plague, published in 1947, we experience many of the same issues facing us today. Is caring for a contagious population a moral duty? Or is it simple human decency? Do we shelter our loved ones when we put ourselves at risk or do they share the risk with us? How can we live our lives with a sense of normalcy, with a tender indifference to the virus?lady in rain painting

When experiencing stress that begins to go beyond what words can express, we can find refuge in listening to opera. In the huge dramatic peaks and valleys of opera, emotions overflow in song and, for a moment, the burden of these emotions in our own lives are lifted away by the music and singers’ voices. 

Three people I know—Carol Lange, the late Julie Ross, and my younger daughter Johanna―have found expression and relief through painting. 

Whether an atmospheric, calming depiction of a rainy day (Carol), a delicate watercolor of a flowery field (Julie), or a punchy bouquet of cheerful flowers (Johanna), painting provides both release in the creation and pleasure from the viewing of the artwork.

cheerful flowers paintingArt offers us different ways to experience and view the world, and allows us to share the viewpoints and perspectives of its creators. 

Please consider contributing to Artistic Antidotes―an image of your art, a poem, a song, a book that speaks to you―the ways art impacts your life as we build a “library” of shared resources for exploration, experience, creativity, and respite.