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Empathy Through Art: Exploring the Aesthetics of Health

June 28, 2022

Beginning in 2021, the Department of Art and Art History at UT Austin’s College of Fine Arts began a collaboration with UT Health Austin’s Livestrong Cancer Institutes to explore the intersection of art and health care. The result: “Aesthetics of Health,” a UT Austin studio art course led by Megan Hildebrandt and Robin Richardson.

By creating art with (and for) cancer patients, caregivers and clinical staff, Aesthetics of Health students use their art to make connections and build relationships with others in a clinical setting. Students  explore community-based social practice, the application of therapeutic arts, science and medicine, and increase the level of empathy in their creative work.

Explore recent works below.

Image 1: Spray chalk artwork stating "Mental health is still not cosmetic."
Image 2: Three panel drawings of a person having difficulty going to sleep.
Image 3: A drawing of a young woman with EEG electrodes braided in her hair.
Image 4: Drawings of a man thinking, "What's next?" and "What's after?"
Image 5: A drawn poster of a Black woman with the words "Skin cancer doesn't discriminate. Wear sunscreen."
Image 6: A pencil drawing of a woman with glasses, with colorful squares in the background.
Image 7: A pencil drawing of a woman with curly hair, smiling.
Image 8: A colorful portrait of a man and a woman; the woman is wearing a green headscarf.

Explore Further

Project You & Me

Students delve into the world of public health and advocacy, each choosing a topic highly meaningful to them.

No. 1: Bee Cortez uses spraychalk to advocate for gender-affirming care.

No. 5: Kaya Samuel uses illustration to dispel myths about sun care in the Black community.

Depict a Healing Process

Students reflect on their own lived experiences and create works in a variety of media that speaks to the topic of healing.

No. 2: Hayden Howe depicts her experiences with chronic insomnia.

No. 3: Diana Padron explores her experience with getting an electroencephalography, remembering how tenderly the nurse braided her hair to help.

Storyteller Portraits

Patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones tell their cancer stories to the class via Zoom, while the students create their portraits live as they speak. 

No. 4: “Ryan,” by Lindsay Edwards.

No. 6: “Nancy,” by Melannie Lopez.

No. 7: “Tia,” by Lauren Tucker.

No. 8: “Archie and Carol,” by Audrey Wright.