About the ARTS-REHAB Project

With the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, The Royal Conservatory’s Living Through the Arts Program has initiated the ARTS-REHAB Project: a multi-year initiative that examines how meaningful engagement in a creative arts program can assist rehab patients to re-enter their communities sooner and more positively than under standard treatment regimes. 

The ARTS-REHAB Project takes a whole-person approach to recovery by engaging specially-trained Artist-Facilitators to work with slow-stream rehabilitation patients in exploring themes such as: new personal stories & identities; sense of purpose; and positive images of the future.   

These Artist-Facilitators work in partnership with staff at six Ontario hospitals for a period of 3-4 months each, delivering weekly sessions for a group of patients who are also undertaking a traditional rehab recovery program.

By the end of the project cycle, in Fall 2017, the ARTS-REHAB Project will have positively impacted the lives of hundreds of patients, while also validating a new approach to whole-person recovery treatment that can be adopted by hospitals across the province, throughout Canada, and even around the world. 

Project Aims

  • To work collaboratively in teams that include: RCM Project Leaders, Researchers, Artist-Facilitators and eight Ontario hospital partners.
  • To guide a creative process and follow a new curriculum that fosters the development of new stories and identities, a new sense of purpose, and positive images of the future.
  • To evaluate the impact of the Arts on patient engagement, optimism, and length of recovery and hospital stay.

Research Study

Central to the ARTS-REHAB Project is a major research study, led by Dr. Lisa Meschino, that seeks to answer the question:  How can meaningful engagement in a creative arts program impact the personal and social wellness of patients in rehabilitation?

The ARTS-REHAB Project aims to describe and interpret the expectations and experiences of patients’ evolving sense of self in recovery as informed by their participation in the Living Through the Arts program which is designed to empower individuals and communities through artistic self-expression and creativity.  Each art form used in the project (i.e. visual arts, music, drama, creative movement, creative writing) is facilitated back-to-back in 3-to-4-month periods for the duration of the study.

For those patients receiving this arts intervention in addition to their rehabilitation activities, we expect to see a difference in the following primary measures: an increase in patients’ sense of hope, optimism and future purpose; an increase in patients’ engagement in their rehabilitation; and a decrease in their hospital length of stay.

Key Aspects of Project Development

Our team has been reflecting on the process of developing a program that fosters social wellness, as well as its related evaluative research study, and they have identified some key aspects associated with the success of the ARTS-REHAB Project to date.

1. Building Strong Partnerships:

  • Hospitals acknowledge a need for rehab programs that focus on the wellbeing of the whole person, not just the physical.

2. Nurturing Open Communication:

  • Processes are set up to build rapport between the arts world and the medical world.
  • Project partners draw a link between arts programs, patient engagement, and standard rehabilitation recovery regime.

3. Understanding Diverse Needs:

  • Patients in slow-stream rehab have the greatest need for meaningful activity.
  • The program model must be adaptable to hospitals’ diverse processes, protocols, staffing, and available programming.

Long Term Vision

Our long-term vision for the ARTS-REHAB Project is to build knowledge translation resources that:

  • Support a sustainable model of creative arts programming for social wellness
  • Advocate for changes in health policy regarding the value of the Arts in recovery
  • Embed ARTS-REHAB as a key program in every Ontario hospital


ARTS-REHAB Update - April 2015

ARTS-REHAB Update - March 2016

More Information

For more information about the ARTS-REHAB Project, please contact:  Nicole Arends, Project Manager, at 416-408-2824 x469 or

With Thanks to Our Funder and Partners

The ARTS-REHAB Project is made possible with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and our Hospital Partners

Ontario Trillium Foundation logo

Bridgepoint Active Healthcare logoHotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare logoSt. Joseph's Care Group logo

St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre of Sudbury logoSt. Peter's Hospital logoWest Park Healthcare Centre logo


Participants in the ARTS-REHAB Pilot study said:

“A warm and enlightening experience.”

“These sessions gave me courage to carry on.  I see hope in the future.  New life.  Sense of new life springing from my heart.”

“I feel very happy and excited. I know more friends. We exchange (share) artwork at the end of the session. Very interesting. I am very involved.”

“Made me realize that I can do things (all things) with guidance and support.”

“It opened up a wide range of personal abilities.”

“Through the sessions I noticed that I can do things - encouraged me to move forward.”

“I realize that I have talent in art. Exciting to realize that you can do many things that you never imagined before.”

“It told me that I was better than I thought!”

Photo at top of page: Hospital staff clinicians from Bridgepoint Active Healthcare participating in an ARTS-REHAB demo session led by Artist-Facilitator Jennifer Polo.

A piece of artworkParticipants painted a large heart and background with paint of different vibrant colours thinking about what message they want to send to their heart. Participant messages included:
- My heart is ready to explore new things
- My heart is ready to support myself
- I believe in my heart

Woman with an art projectA participant at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare displaying her “Journey Book” created in an ARTS-REHAB session led by Artist-Facilitator Jennifer Polo.

Man with a balloonWhen Artist-Facilitator, Michelle Silagy, passed around a large blue balloon as part of a creative movement activity, one participant held it high over his head and stated “I’m holding the world in my hands!”