Columbia Nursing faculty standing in front of the room for a presentation

Revisiting the Healing Power of Art

Members of the Columbia Nursing community gathered on February 22, 2024, for the nursing school’s inaugural Dialogue Across Difference (DxD) event, “Art in the Time of Crisis: Still Rising.” 

DxD is part of Values in Action, a series of initiatives launched by President Minouche Shafik and Interim Provost Dennis Mitchell, DDS, in December 2023 to reinvest in Columbia’s values and mission. The event at Columbia Nursing builds on 2021’s “Art in the Time of Crisis,” a collection of art works by students, faculty, administration, staff, and alumni created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-racism movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd.  

Janine Inez, DNP ’22, and Alden Bush, DNP ’22, launched Art in the Time of Crisis to help their fellow students express emotions and experiences related to the pandemic and their anguish over racial injustice. The project grew to include staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni, who submitted poetry, photography, paintings, dance and music performances, and more, and was presented in a virtual art show on April 14, 2021. 

At the “Still Rising” event, Director of Diversity and Cultural Affairs Ashley Graham-Perel, EdD ’21, provided an introduction, and author and herbal educator Liz Nieves led a grounding exercise for the attendees.  

Assistant Professor Jeanne Churchill, DNP ’10, a member of the original Art in the Time of Crisis team (along with Associate Dean for Diversity and Cultural Affairs Vivian Taylor, EdD, now retired, and Assistant Professor Latisha Hanson, DNP ’15), served as moderator, and spoke about the role of art and narrative in helping people to live through distressing times and connect with one another and themselves.  

Catherine Konradt, a program manager at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, presented her painting “Suspend Chaos,” an abstract canvas in vivid reds, blues, and pinks reminiscent of the Marvel universe, a New York City subway train, and a heart in a grassy field, to name a few interpretations offered by attendees. Konradt recounted how her creative work helped her cope with the uncertainty and stress of the pandemic. “When the world shut down, that feeling of being suspended while being pulled apart was a constant struggle,” she noted. “I was inspired to translate that feeling to canvas.” 

In her closing remarks, Dean Lorraine Frazier, PhD, described how the painting reminded her of the view out the airplane window as she was leaving Ireland for the U.S. with her family as a young girl. Art can help us address powerful emotions and challenging times, she added.  “Making art helps us make sense of our lives, and viewing and talking about art allows us to connect and communicate with one another in a fundamental way. Columbia Nursing is committed to continuing these conversations.”