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Creative Arts

Hey there! How as your pandemic? Tell us all about... with ART!

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Creativity in Health Education Program’s upcoming Fall 2021 Exhibit will explore how folks got creative with art during the COVID-19 lockdown

The exhibit will hang in the medical school from September 7 - December 17, 2021. The date and time for an “in-person” opening reception and exhibit tour will be announced soon.

If you would like to submit your artwork - all media are accepted - please send a picture of your submissions (up to 3 pieces) by Friday, July 16 to Courtney Powell at or Dave Trinkle at Applications and lending agreements will follow once the submissions are approved. Call Courtney at 540-526-2588 with questions.

Creativity in Health Education

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine launched the Creativity in Health Education program in an effort to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students, faculty and staff by integrating the arts in to their daily routines. The program allows faculty and students to embrace the arts and understand the role that art can play in both education and the practice of medicine, as well as involve the community members in the life of the school.

The program accomplishes these goals through a variety of community events. Most prominent thus far have been the regular art shows that include public openings. Local and national artists have contributed to the shows, as have VTCSOM medical students and faculty. As of spring 2019, 22 different shows have been unveiled in the halls of the medical school. The artwork not only enhances the medical school’s physical space, it also imparts the humanistic side of medicine on students and those who work in the building.

In the summer / fall of 2020, we featured Art for the Journey, whose mission is to overcome barriers to transform lives through art. Because of COVID restrictions we were unable to have an in-person event and instead created an online show. 

In the fall of 2019, we featured three collections from local artist Jane Lilian Vance. Ms. Vance’s work focused on how medicine, humanity, spirituality, and the physical world all twist through time together. 

[Jane Vance, artist]: Some people have asked me why are you in Blacksburg Virginia? Because it's quiet and it's wild. We all need to ask the question, "How much is wild in our lives?" Not just in our backyards, but in our heart. In the way we love, in the way we dare. I've gone all around the world to try to understand how folk traditions and parables marry to this work here in the old Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I'm right here inviting wild into my heart and into my art.

For decades and decades I have painted. I have refused circumstances and obstacles that would have kept me from painting. I believe paintings can be reverential, highly detailed and narrative. My paintings I hope never answer questions, never lecture, but they ask questions. How can you be a practitioner of compassion and tell the stories from the Himalayas, the old Buddhist cultures, and show that those stories are first cousins to the old Appalachian reverential heart stories of these Blue Ridge Mountains? My paintings ask those questions. I hope they bring hope and connection, and I hope they bring faith to people.

These paintings have been in a lot of places, in New York and solo shows on the East Coast. They've had their success but I would never be more pleased than I am for these paintings to come before medical students in Roanoke. These are the young people who are forming compassion in the next decades of this world. I feel like these paintings have the sincerity, the commitment, the detail, and the globalism that they all ready know. This will just be an homage to them.

[Gil Harrington, founder, save the next girl]: She wants her art to be part of the mix. She doesn't want it to be art partitioned away from life, she wants it to enrich the medical students experience as they become physicians because having an artistic side and inspiration will make them better healers and contribute more fully to our community.

[Jane Vance]: We are prepared to make this world peaceful, sweet, companionable, and wise and medical practitioners are the artists of the next century. 

VTCSOM collaborated with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge to highlight the various ways that artists interpret the beauty found in Roanoke and surrounding areas. With this show, the school was able to demonstrate the impact our surroundings have on recruiting students, faculty and physicians to our region. 

In addition to the regular art shows, VTCSOM holds a semi-annual Mini Med Schools. Some of the topics studied have been the relationship between art and research science, artists and anatomy, and the beauty of a scar. The 2019 mini medical school was presented in partnership with the Taubman Museum and focused on the importance of keen observation skills as related to art and medical diagnosis. The practice of visual thinking strategies (VTS) involves focusing discussion on the elements of an artwork - like perspective, color, experience, and perception – in order to help the viewer communicate what they see to their peer group. Recent literature has shown the valuable inclusion of VTS in medical education, and partnerships like that between VTC and the Taubman have proven beneficial to both institutions.

[Kyle Edgell, artist]: I am a certified humor professional


I will be receiving my certificate in April when I go to the Association for applied Therapeutic Conference that's an organization that's been for the last 25 years studying humor and laughter and doing the research behind it.

I feel my position in my community right now is to be the megaphone that goes out there and says "we have a need to laugh more" and this is a natural cure that our bodies can bring that will affect any disease for the good. 

People will all agree laughter is the best medicine it helped me through cancer. It helped me through the death of my husband and through other personal stories and I think laughter will give a community resilience and when you're laughing with people of it it's really hard to stay mad at them.


I have been a caricature artists in Roanoke for 28 years. When I draw caricatures I'm in a circle of laughter and a circle of people having fun and there are many things that happen that maybe discover that my drawings were better when everybody was laughing. When people were relaxed they had more fun. When people felt safe they were more fun. Of course you have the smart alecks in the audience who want to contribute and those that simply want to watch but they also if I can convert them into being cheerleaders clapping and chanting is a great way to make people laugh and to affirm people and say attaboy.

Everybody knows and can't wait for that turnaround, for the reveal. It gives permission for people to laugh at themselves and to take themselves lightly. Once you do that it helps people bond with you.


The Creativity in Health Education program also periodically sponsors poetry writing competitions for medical students, students from Jefferson College of Health Sciences, master of fine arts students at Virginia Tech, undergraduate students at Virginia Tech, and members of VTC’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program. This competition, which began in early 2013, features special guest judges and monetary awards. It has received many excellent submissions over the years. Poetry in the Waiting Room, a publication at Carilion Clinic, includes some of the winning entries from VTCSOM medical students and VTC research professionals.

Looking forward, the Creativity in Health Education program will be working on a new initiative involving the art of interviewing and storytelling. Because illness can challenge the notion of self, and self-doubt can slow the process of healing, many scholars have recently begun to recommend the time-honored practice of storytelling as a way to promote that healing. Storytelling and narrative medicine can help patients to take control of their illness in a way that pharmaceuticals cannot. Students will use the Healthstorian, VTCSOM’s mobile oral history studio, as a lab to practice this form of healing.

David Trinkle, Associate Dean of Community and Culture says of the Creativity in Health Education Program, “Art can enhance a person’s adaption to illness as well as promote recovery. We hope that the programs and shows that we feature at our school reinforce a holistic, patient-centered approach to healthcare that will benefit the students as well as the community as a whole.”


[Jennifer Fowler, artist]: My grandfather was a very hardworking dedicated man who dearly loved my grandmother. He was a very thankful man, very grateful for everything. He was proud of his country all the way through. He signed up to be in the military actually right before World War Two happened. He saw that it was coming on and told his family that it looked like they were gonna need his help, so he enlisted and he was in the service I believe two years before he was actually captured by the Japanese.

He was a POW for three and a half years and endured a lot of things that not many could have endured. My grandmother and other members of her family in the church were writing letters to all of the POWs and that was the only letter that my grandfather got his entire time as a POW, and he held on to it and when he returned back from being a POW he married her six months later so it was very special, that one letter.

During the time that I created these pieces I was a photo student at JMU and it was right around the time that he became ill and so the my last semester of school is also when he passed away. So this was kind of how I dealt with what I was going through and also I guess I removed myself from it but was working on it at the same time so that's how I was dealing with his death was by creating these images


I took hundreds of images. I printed all of them but most of them I have used... for instance, all of these are copies of those that I have used to create the transfer images. The way in which I transferred those images onto the paper it was me rubbing onto it, so it's got my literal kind of thumbprint in there. So it's more of a connection than just taking a photo and printing it. This artwork to me represents all of my grandfather exactly what he stood for in his in his life.

I hope that when someone looks at these images that they can feel a connection with someone who is a veteran and realized that they are dear to someone else's heart.