The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 3, 2005

Writers Will Work With Chronically Ill Patients In Arts Share Project

The University of Iowa Arts Share program has received $10,000 from the UI Provost's office to launch "The Patient Voice," a project in which Iowa Writers' Workshop students will help chronically ill patients in University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City to write about their experiences.

The project was conceived by Austin Bunn, a graduate student in the UI Writers' Workshop. Bunn recalled his own experience as a young patient, and the frustration he felt about going through the traumatic experience alone, and without a means to express it.

" No one was asking me what it was like for me to go through this experience," he says. "So I've always had it in the back of my mind to do something with other patients. And when I got to Iowa, I realized I didn't want to spend my time here just wrapped up in my own writing."

When Bunn arrived to the UI, Arts Share Director Leslie Finer was one of the speakers at an orientation session for the writers, and that contact led to a proposal for funding from the Provost's office.

The project will provide the patients with practical writing basics -- journals and pens, so there is nothing between them and writing -- as well as a series of workshops to develop writing skills.

" I wanted to focus primarily on patients with chronic illnesses, so that there would be multiple contacts," Bunn explains. "I also know the practice of writing can take time to develop."

Bunn conceived of this project as a much different experience than other sorts of arts therapy. "This is not distraction therapy," he stresses. "Actually, it's the opposite. It will bring intense focus on their experience with illness, and their experience as patients."

Bunn expects to launch the project early in 2005, working initially with oncology patients in Children's Hospital of Iowa and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, but he says that several other hospital departments have also expressed interest, providing opportunities for expansion.

A former columnist for the Village Voice, Bunn is a widely published writer, with articles and reviews in the New York Times Magazine, the Advocate, New York magazine, Brill's Content, Salon and Elle. He is the co-author with film producer Christine Vachon of the memoir "Big Picture, Little Picture." A graduate of Yale University, he has taught at Fordham College.

The goal of Arts Share is to strengthen the arts in underserved areas and to provide access to life-enriching arts experiences throughout Iowa. To serve that goal, Arts Share makes artists available in music, theater, dance, the visual arts and creative writing. The available activities range from workshops to ensemble coaching to concerts to lectures -- and even special, custom-designed projects.

The 2004-05 Arts Share roster includes more than 100 individual artists and ensembles, with options to fit a variety of needs and budgets. Many schools have scheduled several Arts Share artists to create a concentrated arts day, or have engaged an artist to make multiple visits, enabling their guidance of long-term projects.

Children's Hospital of Iowa at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is a nationally recognized pediatric center of excellence, providing comprehensive health care for children from birth to young adulthood. Its pediatric outreach and satellite clinics provide primary and specialty care every year for more than 130,000 children throughout Iowa. It is the state's longest serving children's hospital. As a "hospital within a hospital," Children's Hospital of Iowa benefits from the sophisticated services and comprehensive resources of UI Hospitals and Clinics - consistently ranked as one of the "Best Hospitals in America" by U.S. News & World Report magazine.

For more information call the Children's Hospital of Iowa at 1-800-777-8442 or 319-384-8442 or visit its Web site at

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

The Writers' Workshop is an academic unit in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,