Share Your Selfies: Introducing the Arts Committee

Jun 29, 2019

At the 2019 Bridging the Divide Symposium, participants interacted with national experts, heard narratives from people with lived experience and joined panel discussions on caregiving, palliative care, and developing teams that meet people where they are. Attendees also had the opportunity to walk through an art exhibit that displayed selfies alongside creations combining fabric, paint and the batik process to convey how cancer and mental health intersect in the lives of patients, caregivers and community members.

This year, we created an arts committee based on our values of collaboration and expressing creativity. We developed an exhibit with the intention of reaching hearts and minds. We aimed to cross traditional roles and build community among our diverse coalition of people affected by cancer and mental illness. First, we took selfies to encourage a diverse group to participate and capture a personal moment from their daily lives. Next, we used a modified version of batiking to express their reflections through color, texture and words. We created messages on pillow cases and mounted them on sheets that resembled hospital sheets, a component of the patient experience.

Together, as a group of people with lived experience of mental illness and cancer, caregivers, clinicians, and advocates, we created pieces during a two-hour workshop guided by volunteers with expertise in this artistic medium and then displayed 10 pieces during the symposium. Attendees walked through the space and added their own reflections.

From taking the selfie to painting their words and batiking, artists were fully invested in this initiative. Messages included, “Hope is beautiful. “No more us vs. them,” and “Caregivers need care too.” Hong An reflected after the workshop, “Thank you for inviting me to participate. During the whole diagnosis, surgery, radiation, and medication therapy, I almost took it for granted that MGH doctors can fix me. What I really wanted to write on that pillow case is, in MGH we trust. I feel it is a blessing for me to have you and all the doctors, therapists, and medical staff to help me live a strong and productive life for so many years. It is beyond words for my appreciation.”


With this year’s initiative, we aimed to showcase how art can connect people who share a common experience and mission for change. The Engage Initiative aims for this exhibit to live on and hopes to display these powerful pieces at other events and on social media. To learn more, join the arts committee, or participate in the future, please email [email protected].

Follow @endtheinequity. Join our coalition at


The ENGAGE Initiative

We are building a community network that engages diverse voices to promote equity in cancer care and research.

we are a coalition dedicated to ensuring that mental illness is never a barrier to cancer care