Tucson artist and writer Kaitlin Meadows has worked for 20 years as a hospice nurse, helping patients tie up loose ends before the end of their lives. She discovered through her work that art helps patients—as well as caregivers—to feel and heal better. Almost two months ago, she started Kaitlin's Creative Cottage, located in the courtyard at 740 N. Main Ave., behind the Dry River Collective, to help women get creative and feel better. For more information, visit www.kaitlinmeadows.com, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Tell me about your work as a nurse.
My life's work has been in public-health service, nursing with farm workers, poor rural communities and indigenous peoples. I also worked in pediatric trauma with children who've experienced child abuse, were malnourished and living in dangerous conditions. More recently, I've been working with hospice patients, helping them tie up loose ends and foster reconciliations and amends-making before their final passage.
How do art and nursing come together for you?
Rather than through the traditional Western-medicine diagnostics, I found that I got a better understanding of the whole person, learning about my patients through their shared stories, their histories and their art. I especially found that making art was a tremendous way for victims of trauma or abuse to tell me their stories and access their deeper wounds.
What about your hospice patients?
With hospice patients, I was amazed to learn how many people had forsaken art-making during their lives as they focused on careers, raising children and caring for their homes. Many of them keenly missed the pleasure of creativity in their lives. When I began to integrate art and crafts, I saw a huge leap in overall wellness, including pain relief and improved responsiveness. That prompted me to believe that personal creativity should be more embraced as an essential part of personal wellness.
How did you discover art?
I come from an academic background where the arts were not valued as important parts of life, so I had no formal art background, but when I moved to Tucson, I began to discover many creative opportunities. ... I went to the art museums and galleries and took classes at Oasis, WomanKraft and The Drawing Studio. I joined PaperWorks: The Sonoran Collective for Paper and Book Artists when I discovered I had a passion for making paper and books.
Why did you decide to start Kaitlin's Creative Cottage?
The Tucson arts community has been inspiring and nourishing for me, and I wanted to give back. ... I wanted to create a safe, quiet, relaxed space in a vibrant neighborhood in central Tucson where the emphasis is on supporting creativity as a self-nourishing and self-healing path ... I really want to get away from the ideas that art is only made by artists, and that creativity is something you're either born with or not.
Are the classes and workshops specifically for women?
Yes, it's to provide an opportunity to be free to be expressive and learn to make things in a nurturing, no-stress environment. I also offer space for other women to give classes. We also have a monthly open house to show our work and get to know each other better.
Is there a particular project coming up that you're excited about?
Yes, Tucson Peace Poets, which starts on Sunday, April 10, from 1 to 3 p.m., is an opportunity for women who have a desire for peace and social justice to come together to write or perform, or just meet and work together.
Why this location?
The arts are very often not in neighborhoods, but in reclaimed industrial spaces or multi-use areas where other tenants are not respectful of the artists. My goal is to create art in the neighborhood, to remind ourselves that artists live among you—they live in our neighborhoods.
What does this new venture really mean for you?
These were two separate components in my life, but once I made the decision that art was healing, and healing was art, all my work came together. This is also neighbor work, which has always been important in my life. I figured out that I could put all of these under one roof in this space. ... A lot of people, when they retire, think they are going to change gears, but I like bringing all of my life experiences into this venture. I'm still both things, but this brings it all together.