Healing Arts Initiative (HAI) exists to remove barriers to arts and culture, and inspires healing, growth, and learning through engagement with the arts.
Goals, Programs, and Structure
HAI is steadfast in our mission of making the arts accessible to all New Yorkers, especially individuals who are isolated and marginalized due to institutionalization, hospitalization, disability and illness, as well as at-risk youth in low-income neighborhoods – audiences most in need of the healing role of the arts. Since our organization’s inception, HAI has presented thousands of performances and programs, reaching millions of people.
Each year, HAI touches the lives of more than 350,000 underserved individuals, offering an array of arts, education and wellness programs. These include: live performing arts at senior centers, nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and other social and healthcare facilities; free and low-cost tickets to cultural events; participatory arts workshops to foster creative expression, academic improvement and community engagement for elementary, middle and high schools (including special needs students); audio description services for blind and visually impaired theater patrons; presentation of original music and dance at mid-to-large scale venues in NYC communities; an in-house art studio and gallery program that provides a safe space for artists living with mental health challenges to practice their craft; and group transport on specially designed buses accommodating large numbers of disabled and elderly passengers.
HAI’s organizational structure is comprised of four departments: Access, Education, Marketing/Outreach, and Accounting. Coordination and oversight of HAI’s programs is accomplished by our dedicated team of staffers, comprised of 16 full time and 24 part time members.
History and Key Achievements
Healing Arts Initiative was established in 1969 as Hospital Audiences, Inc. with the primary objective of providing access to live performance for institutionalized individuals in New York City. To this end, we began by supplying concerts and performances to patients residing in psychiatric facilities. These services proved their effectiveness, almost immediately, as participants who had previously exhibited a wide range of behavioral issues began to display elevated moods and improved conduct.
Over the last 45 years, HAI has grown exponentially in the scope of its audience and reach. Soon after our initial foray into the state psychiatric facilities, HAI quickly expanded its services to other marginalized and isolated populations throughout NYC. The 1970’s, which brought about even more social awareness of the therapeutic effects of artistic performance, fueled HAI’s service expansion into correctional facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.
In similar fashion, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s again brought HAI’s services to new audiences in need. During this time, HAI also launched our Education Department, which utilizes theater techniques such as role play to address prevalent issues affecting inner city youth. Moreover, amplified recognition of the beneficial effects of art on the developmentally disabled resulted in creative workshops and performances with the interests of special needs audiences in mind.
In the 1990s, HAI increased outreach to the homeless population of NYC, bringing dramatic performance to hundreds of area shelters and broadening our impact on the city’s most underserved. Efforts to bring the arts to the physically disabled were also expanded, with the introduction of Describe!, live audio description of theatrical performances for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and the launch of HAI’s fleet of buses, specially retrofitted to accommodate numerous wheelchairs. Additionally, HAI launched our Community Performing Arts Series events, making high-quality performance affordable and accessible to audiences ill at ease in traditional theater settings.
Today, HAI is a multifaceted arts agency dedicated to enriching the lives of culturally underserved New Yorkers through engagement with art. Although HAI has grown, the mission has remained the same; we are still dedicated to the central premise that access to art and culture brings about profound healing to those who need it most.