Madeline Austin, Artist in Residence
At Shands, Madeline works with heart transplant patients and their families and adult dialysis patients. She is the coordinator of the Art In Motion program doing visual arts with people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. She is the founder of Dollies Without Borders, a grassroots organization that crafts and gives handmade dolls to children in developing countries.
Madeline studied drama and dance at Henry Street Settlement in New York City and art in San Francisco. She taught art classes to children of the Lower East Side. She is a certified hypnotherapist and is an ordained interfaith minister.
She travels annually to Maitri, an AIDS hospice in San Francisco and works with patients and staff using guided imagery and meditation. For decades Madeline has been involved with the HIV pandemic and hospice.
Why Arts in Medicine?
My art, my spirituality, my work in health care, my desire to be a stepping stone in building community as well as my own personal healing are all interlaced.
My art, like my life tends to be rather eclectic.
My work at Shands is a tapestry woven together of my artistic ability, my creativity and my life experience. It is my belief that a very profound kind of healing takes place when one is immersed in their art. There is a sense of empowerment when one recognizes oneself as an artist.
Part of what I do at the hospital is building community. Working on the heart transplant unit has been a dance in itself, as patients come together through their art and their circumstances to become each other’s “family.” These ties often last long after the transplant. I marvel in the sense of family connection that happens in our parkinson’s group as well as the dialysis unit, including staff.
I founded and created Dollies Without Borders, a program in which people are making hand-made fabric dolls that reflect the children’s ethnicity. We started with doll circles—like old time Quilting bees—in my home. And now the program has grown that there are doll gatherings as far west as California and as far north as Nova Scotia. Thousands of dolls have been delivered to children around the world. We now conduct doll-making workshops in the Criser Cancer Resource Center at Shands Hospital the first Saturday of each month.