By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

What do you get when a scientist and a musician are both in a lab?

The sixth annual Rodham Institute Summit 2019 answered this riddle through a series of panels, presentations, discussions and entertainment on May 23 at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (SETLC).  This year’s theme was, “Incorporating the Arts… to Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Washington, DC: The Sights, Sounds, and the Heart and Soul D.C.”

In the day-long summit, 200 local officials, community leaders, organization directors, arts and health advocates, students and District residents convened for a discussion on the intersection of arts and health.

The Rodham Institute met at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center to honor Cora Masters Barry and conduct panels on health and the arts, including an appearance by former First Lady and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

Through collaborations with arts therapists, scientists and musicians, researchers discovered the correlation art and exposure to the arts, have on a human’s overall health- including brain functions and physical well being.  Organizations presented their work and research for audiences to see how professional artists’ health and functionality are impacted by the arts.

Former First Lady and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the summit during the afternoon for a robust conversation on arts and health.

“We’ve got to think more creatively,” Secretary Clinton told the audience. “You have music therapists and neuroscientists working together.  People need to be put together in cross disciplines.”

The summit was held at SETLC as it also honored the center’s founder, former District of Columbia First Lady Cora Masters Barry.

Barry, who emphasizes the intersection of sports, education and the arts in her work at SETLC, was honored with the “Beacon of Light Award,” for being a “Trailblazer, Change Agent, Motivational Speaker, Political Scientist, Sports, Tennis, and Education Powerhouse, who has transformed the lives of countless young people, who are now empowered and committed to making a difference in our communities, our nation, and the world,” according to a press release regarding the event.  

Per her introduction of the former Secretary of State, Barry and Clinton’s own relationship is an example of the power of collaboration.

“She grabbed my hand in both of her hands and said, ‘I’m looking forward to getting to know you,’ and I can tell you, the rest is history,” Barry said. “We share the same passion for transforming our communities, supporting our children and lifting up those who are left behind.”

During Clinton’s panel discussion, which included presentations from the National Instiute of Health (NIH) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the former Secretary of State emphasized the groundbreaking research happening in arts and health intersectionality.

“I’m hoping the fact that you’ve done, this, which is really pioneering, to bring together the arts and health the way you did, will send a very strong message that more people should be looking at this, and taking the lessons that have already been learned, that we heard about from NIH and the Kennedy Center,” Clinton said.

In educating the masses on the intersection of arts and health, Secretary Clinton also encouraged the audience to understand the importance of people doing all in their power to remain healthy.

“There has to be a big emphasis on people taking responsibility for their own health.  Some things are beyond anybody’s control, but some things are not. How people take care of themselves, what their diet is, whether or not they move enough, what their exercise is, techniques like yoga and meditation- all of that can improve someone’s health, which, in turn, limits paid medical care that they receive.”

Clinton closed with congratulating those who are researching, studying and advocating about the intersectionality of arts and health.

“I’m just thrilled at the progress you’re making and all the people whose lives you’re touching.”