Fine Arts are Helping at St Elizabeth Oncology Institute - RSA

Fine Arts are Helping at St Elizabeth Oncology Institute

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  • Picture of Petra Stefankova FRSA
    Petra Stefankova FRSA
    Award-winning illustrator, visual artist, multi-disciplinary designer, animation director
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Arts and society
  • Fellowship

An invitation from Rawthmells and Events and Programme Manager Alice Sewell to London RSA events held on the topic of “How can arts and culture create positive social change?” has inspired me to open a discussion on the topic also here in Slovakia.

When I received that invitation, I was opening my independent exhibition of acrylic illustrations and drawings at the St. Elizabeth Oncology Institute at the Prevention Center in Bratislava. A vernissage was attended by patients, clients, doctors, other health-care professionals and institute staff members. The Institute′s spokesman Peter Kresánek was also present, and I asked him to tell me more about those exhibitions.

“The cycle of exhibitions called “Healing Art” was substantiated and introduced at the St Elizabeth Oncology Institute by Institute Executive doc. MUDr. Juraj Kaušitz, CSc.
He based it on the assumption that fine arts promote harmony and thus can also support a healing process. From the very beginning, a management team operating the cycle of exhibitions is led by MUDr. Alena Kállayová, who has already been a Prevention Center Senior Doctor for more than two decades. Ružová stužka n.f. and Europa Donna Slovakia have been participating in arranging the exhibitions. Among other things, female members of Ružová stužka inform visitors about principles of a healthy lifestyle and breast cancer prevention, as an accompanying event to exhibitions. They provide interested women with the training of breast self-examination.
In this context, it is becoming apparent that the “Healing Art” exhibitions can indeed have a mediated preventive and healing effect, and they can positively affect a human. That applies even more since the exhibitions are held on a long-term basis, as already the 74th exhibition of the cycle is running. The first exhibition of “Healing Art” cycle was opened for patients and other interested persons by the institute in February 2000. At the exhibition, impressionistic photos of Italian Tuscany were presented by German photograph Rolf Rock. As a renowned artist who had been awarded lots of prizes (for example the title of German Photo Champion in 1977), he raised a bar high for a selection of other authors.”

The international representation of exhibition authors opens up an opportunity for the encounter of diverse cultures, which supports mutual understanding. The emotional state of the people attending the exhibitions to seek the information about prevention or because their life journey has been affected by health issues is intensive. Profound emotions are also experienced by artists who share their view of the world with others. Understanding is a key topic for everyone – it is equally important in case of cultural diversity as in case of a stressful health condition, and both the art and a creative artist have the need for understanding.

A group exhibition has recently been organised by private British International School Bratislava. It comprised a selection of its students’ works. It was dedicated to a memory of their teacher – an oncological patient – and they decided to exhibit the pictures permanently at the St Elizabeth Oncology Institute. The unique cycle of “Healing Art” exhibitions originating in our institute has thus been diversified with a new form. The changing exhibitions which have been held by now at the Prevention Center of the Institute have already been supplemented by a permanent exposition arranged directly on the premises of clinics and in-patient departments of the Institute. Today, the idea of using the amazing healing power of fine arts which emerged at the St. Elizabeth Oncology Institute is also being applied by other Slovak hospitals. Nevertheless, “Healing Art” cycle keeps being exceptional especially because the institute has an informal gallery where exhibitors and their pieces of art are constantly changing, so it never becomes ordinary and because along with professional native and foreign artists, other exceptional creators are given space here, including patients themselves or even doctors
According to the first feedback, I think and can confirm that the latest 74th “Healing Art” exhibition successfully follows the previous ones. It has been prepared under the title of “Strolls across Fairy-Tales” by one of the most significant personalities of contemporary Slovak graphic art and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts Petra Štefanková. The author depicts Slovak cult fairy-tale films as well as English classic films like the one about Mary Poppins in a fresh and sensitive way with a high expressive value. Iconic film characters are portrayed within her own original content using her own artistic handwriting narrating a new story. Her children’s book with the theme of “My little sea” leading the littlest to adopt ecological attitudes in a prudent, funny and intuitive way has already come out for its addressees.


During a vernissage of the exhibition, visitors were discussing topics that overlap with visual arts, film production and issues of health, ecology and a healthy environment and lifestyle.

The comprehensible language of visual arts and films contributes to the spread of current topics on science and other important areas of knowledge. Therefore, it is vital that visual artists' and directors’ authorial pieces of art break free from the reins of shallow entertainment which we consume so often via the media. Not to mention the fact that contemporary art forgets on an impact of aesthetic parameters upon the consciousness of a human being. The aim of fine arts is not to discourage, stir up a scandal and simply provoke; artists constantly have to struggle against the opinion that they work only for themselves to able to express their own feelings. Their mission is not completed by that, and the exhibition held in the health-care facility is a proof that playing with visuality and aesthetics may produce interesting positive results in the society.

The exhibition entitled “Strolls across Fairy Tales” is taking place at the Prevention Center of the St. Elizabeth Oncology Institute in Bratislava.

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  • As a volunteer I run an art session in a day care hospice every week. I was a nurse, university Fine Art Lecturer and I am a painter. 

    I am amazed at the positive effect these sessions have on the people attending. They are committed, do more work in their own time and are developing their own ideas at speed! The group dynamics are great. I don’t know what I was expecting but It is a positive experience for everyone. 

  • Dear Petra,

    what a wonderful and positive project.

    I have introduced poetry to Cherry Lodge Cancer Care in Barnet, Greater London.

    Warm regards,

    Dennis Evans FRSA

    • Thank you, Dennis, for taking time to comment on my article. Poetry is surely another beautiful artistic expression that helps to spread positive thinking.

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