From the Field

Teaching Empathy at Reynolda House

May 20, 2015

Reynolda House Museum of American Art is featuring works from the Museum's collection by artists responding to a major loss in their life. The exhibition, Love & Loss, has sparked an uncommon collaboration with local medical and healthcare community in how to use art as a tool for relating to patients and families experiencing a loss. The collaboration includes intensive workshops for healthcare professionals focusing on patient empathy and compassion during end-of-life care as well as improved diagnostics and patient communication.

"We've become increasingly aware in medicine that integration of the right and left brain is really important in terms of compassion and empathy," said Steven Block, the senior associate dean for faculty affairs at Wake Forest School of Medicine. "People who have the opportunity to think beyond the technical and the scientific are much better physicians in terms of communications."

“I think that what we have the potential of doing here in ‘Love & Loss’ is to create a safe space for workshop participants to discover their own response, a powerful response to these works of art that will connect with them in a deeply personal way, that each participant gets to own and take with them,” Reynolda House Director Allison Perkins said. “It’s almost like triggering one’s connection to the power of loss and grief and the profound understanding of what life means to each of us. It’s unique to each person.”

Public gallery conversations are also a part of Love & Loss. A small journal in the gallery has encouraged visitors to share their responses to love, loss, and the works of art in the gallery.  View a Vine of some of the responses here.

Read more about Love & Loss at Reynolda House and the museum's collaborations with local medical institutions (including feedback from healthcare professionals) in the Winston-Salem Journal. Love & Loss is on view through December 13, 2015.