Chyela was eight years old when she first discovered the power in creative expression. She and a friend would often sing and act out skits for residents at a nearby nursing home. And every time the girls performed, the residents would light up like a Christmas tree. It was a feeling Chyela would never forget—and would ultimately inspire her to pursue a career in creative arts therapy.
Today, Chyela Rowe is the Arts and Healthcare Program Coordinator at CHI Memorial Hospital, where she wholeheartedly believes in the healing power of art—and is dedicated to sharing that notion with the help of her Chattanooga community. In fact, one of Chyela’s many accomplishments is an art gallery within CHI Memorial that features artwork curated from schools and organizations that serve adults living with mental illness.
Often, the art on display is inspired by people and places within Chattanooga—fostering a connection between hospital visitors and their community. Chyela has seen how the artwork can help soothe a concerned patient or family member, and bring peace to a veteran suffering from PTSD. She explains, “When people see something in the artwork that reminds them of home, they think to themselves: ‘This hospital, these caregivers—they know me; they know who I am.’”
Chyela’s artistic partnerships have empowered individuals living with mental illness. “When you have your work witnessed and seen, and someone else reflects their thoughts and their meaning onto your work, it gives purpose.” What’s more, all proceeds directly benefit the artists and community programs.
The gallery reinforces what Chyela learned many years ago: that art does have the power to heal.