The First of its Kind, this Toronto Health Centre Caters to Artists

Toronto Artists’ Health Centre

Image: Flickr/mkdooley

Between tight deadlines fluctuating incomes, intense rehearsal schedules, repetitive movements and lack of a safety net, being an artist is a tough gig.

Anyone who says it isn’t – especially in the early days – is lying to you (or has a reliable trust fund).

This is especially true when it comes to healthcare.

Professional creative and performing artists represent a unique sector of the city with its own unique needs – especially in regards to physical and mental health. When it comes to artists of all varieties, their health concerns are often specific to their profession and to their particular emotional and socio-economic circumstances. Let’s not forget that their availability of work – and subsequently, their paycheques – tends to fluctuate throughout the year. Not only does this make it difficult to save for a rainy day, it can make it impossible to cover the costs of medical situations that may arise (yes, even in Canada). This is compounded by the fact that the lack of economic stability can take serious tolls on the both the mental and physical health of artists.

Perhaps more so than in any other industry, the artistic set needs to be on top of their health – if they’re too sick to work, then they likely won’t get paid. “Sick days” are very rarely in the vocabulary of an artist. A well-kept secret among the right brain-dominant Toronto creatives, the good news is that there’s a Toronto-based health centre that caters to artist – the first (and hopefully not the last) of its kind in Canada.

The Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre is a facility in the Family and Community Medicine Program at Toronto Western Hospital. Specializing in serving the entire artistic community, the centre is complete with things like an acoustic studio, a movement assessment studio with a spring floor, video equipment to aid in diagnosis and treatment, mental health services and access to a family physician. The one-stop spot offers both free and often low cost healthcare options, providing both medical and complementary care.

New patients are offered an integrated health assessment, which offers access to a range of services, from massage therapy to psychotherapy.

Offering a mix of both eastern and western medicine, services offered include acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, craniosacral therapy, registered massage therapy, MBCT group programs, naturopathic medicine, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, group psychotherapy and shiatsu therapy. Of course, many of these services are essential for artists – whether for the injury-laden ballet dancer who dances every day or the classical musician whose heavy double bass has become an extension of their body.

With a mandate that includes research, education and outreach to the arts community, the centre constantly conducts research specifically related to the health concerns of professional artists. This knowledge not only benefits Toronto artists, but those across Canada and internationally thanks to e-health communications and research.

artists' health alliance toronto

A puzzle board from the 8th annual Gala in celebration of healthy artists and artistic diversity (Image: Facebook/Artists’ Health Alliance)

Historically, both the cost and the lack of specialized healthcare for artists poised major barriers for creatives. Through the Joysanne Sidimus Fund, services at the Artists’ Health Centre are subsidized for artists in financial need, allowing them to only pay a small fraction of the cost.

Founded in 2002, the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation (now the Artists’ Health Alliance) has been making the lives of writers, musicians, visual artists, dancers, actors, filmmakers, technicians, arts students and arts teachers easier than ever with initiatives like the multi-disciplinary Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre and its financial assistance programs like the Joysanne Sidimus Fund.

The one-stop shop offered at the Artists’ Health Centre is a concept that would only benefit other regions if adopted. The relentless passion and talent of artists shouldn’t come at such a personal cost for them. It’s the passionate work of healthy artists that give our cities their vibrancy, after all.

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What do you think of the Artists’ Health Centre? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe

Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based writer, actor and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow Erin: @erinnicoledavis