Art is Patient seminar series

People are complicated. Art is difficult. They’re both challenging: often opaque and multi-layered and hard to read. People and artworks can show up with their labels front-and-centre, but what do labels 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 approach art in a gallery – and this becomes a means to explore how we encounter people in our clinics and offices. The course proposes that relating to art and to people in meaningful ways doesn’t require special background knowledge. Rather, it requires our mindful, open-minded engagement.

The seminars turn 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 curiosity and humility. The art tells us what we need to know about perceiving, witnessing and engaging in the context of care. The art gallery allows objects and images to clarify the professional/patient relationship in ways the clinic can’t. The art gives 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
  • self-reflection via mark-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, curiosity, creativity and self-reflection
  • Understand the role of embodied witnessing in the practice of medicine.

Seminar leader

Eva-Marie Stern, RP, MA, Adjunct Faculty U of T Dept of Psychiatry, is an art therapist, a relational 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”, appears in Health Humanities in Postgraduate Medical Education (Oxford U Press, 2018) and expands on how looking at and making art can vitalize learning in medicine. She is a Harvard Fellow in Art Museum-Based Health Professions Education.

Time and place

3 sessions in sequence:

3:00 to 5:00 on Wednesdays November 30, December 7 and 14, 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.

Participants may be asked to provide written feedback about the course for program evaluation.

Tickets are graciously provided by the AGO.

For more information and to register, please contact: