University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



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‘Arts have the power to heal.’ Women will use dance, other arts to share their breast cancer journeys at Sarasota-Manatee campus retreat

By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing

Local women will use dance and other visual arts to explore and share their experiences with breast cancer, during a retreat hosted by University of South Florida faculty members on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Helene Robinson

A. Helene Robinson

The Sister Warrior Art Project retreat on Aug. 5, will include individual reflection, group collaboration and art creation during which participants can address challenges with body image, sexuality, beauty and gender identity that might have resulted from their illness and treatment. Attendees will be able to participate in creative dance, journaling and collaborative dance visuals that communicate their relationships with their bodies.

“Arts have the power to heal,” said event co-host A. Helene Robinson, an associate professor of instruction and the arts integration coordinator for the College of Education on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “Dance and photography provide a way to connect with our bodies and communicate through our bodies so that we can reframe perceptions of beauty.”

The other co-hosts are Margaret McGladrey, an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health and Law and Policy on the Sarasota-Manatee campus; and Merry Lynn Morris, a dance educator, researcher and choreographer in the School of Theatre & Dance on the USF Tampa campus.

Morris said the retreat setting will be a “trusting environment” where participants will be able to openly share their experiences with breast cancer.

“It is not only the individual level of expressive processing but the collective receptivity and shared art making experience that offers additional insight and catharsis for the individual,” Morris said. “The workshop will very much be a group experience, helping the participants feel less isolated and alone in their breast cancer journeys.”

Robinson, who also is director of the Critical & Creative Design Thinking Program on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, has incorporated her own experience with breast cancer as creator and host of the Hugs from Heaven for Sister Warriors podcast. The retreat is being offered through the Critical & Creative Design Thinking Program, with funding from campus faculty professional development grants and an award Robinson received earlier this year from USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy.

“When we are engaged in the creative flow, we are able to engage in high levels of critical thinking and process thoughts and feelings that we may have unknowingly suppressed,” Robinson said. “Especially for those of us who have experienced breast cancer, the physical, visual, and sensory impact on our bodies is very traumatic.”

The free retreat will be from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, in the Selby Auditorium on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

For more information, including about how to register for the event, visit the retreat’s Facebook page at

Registration will be limited to 25 attendees. 

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