Art is Patient SEMINARS AT THE AGO-May/June 2022 🗓

Health and Humanities

Art is Patient seminar series at the AGO


Both people and artwork are a challenge for us to meet. They can be opaque and complex and confusing. People and artworks might present themselves at first with their labels front-and-centre, but what do these really tell us?  As clinicians or as viewers, how do we approach and understand these layered beings as insightfully and respectfully as possible?

Art is Patient introduces learners to a series of steps to encounter art in a gallery as a means to explore how we might encounter people in our clinics and offices. The course recognizes that art and people don’t require specialized background knowledge in order to relate to them in meaningful ways. Rather, they need our mindful, open-minded engagement.

The seminar series turns a group of learners and the Art Gallery of Ontario into a dynamic lab for visual literacy. In each of three linked sessions, we engage with one or two pieces of artwork with openness, curiosity and humility. The art tells us what we need to know about seeing, witnessing and engaging in the context of care. The art gallery allows objects and images to clarify the clinician/patient relationship in ways the clinic can’t, giving us space to question and understand our roles with one another without the usual pressures to know or perform or explain.


  • guided close observation of art
  • group reflection and
  • art-making


  • Foster cognitive skills such as description and interpretation (and better understand the distinction between the two), critical thinking and metacognition
  • Sharpen technical abilities such as close observation, diagnostic acumen, pattern recognition and the perception of non-verbal cues
  • Deepen interpersonal skills with both patients and colleagues, such as collaboration, social awareness and cultural sensitivity
  • Nurture humanistic qualities such as tolerance of ambiguity, creativity and self-reflection
  • Understand the role of embodied witnessing in the practice of medicine.

Seminar leader:

Eva-Marie Stern, RP, MA, Adjunct Professor U of T Dept of Psychiatry, is an art therapist, psychotherapist and educator. She co-founded WRAP (within the Trauma Therapy Program) at Women’s College Hospital in 1998. Her chapter, co-authored with Shelley Wall, “The Visible Curriculum”, which appears in Health Humanities in Postgraduate Medical Education (Oxford U Press, 2018) expands on how looking at and making art can vitalize learning in medicine. She offers art-based medical education initiatives in hospitals, museums and community studios.


3 sessions in sequence:

3:00 to 4:30 on Wednesdays May 25, June 1, and June 8, 2022

In person: Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St West


Open to all U of T Medical Students and Residents on a first-come, first-served basis.
There is no cost for participation but enrolment is limited for a small group experience.

No art experience is necessary.

Tickets are graciously provided by the AGO.

For more information and to register, please contact:

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