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Taking a bite out of cancer: Crave Cupcakes partners with Arts in Medicine program

Jakaya Crawford, a patient at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, prepares to enjoy a piece of edible art as her sister looks on at the recent party celebrating Crave Cupcakes’ partnership with Arts in Medicine. Photo by Ian Cion

By Michelle Moore

Crave Cupcakes has added an important ingredient to its recipe for success — philanthropy. The popular Houston-area bakery is partnering with Arts in Medicine, a program that offers patients at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital a creative outlet through integrative and group art projects.


Starting in September 2011, the bakery will package cupcakes delivered to the Texas Medical Center in boxes with specially designed stickers denoting that a portion of proceeds will go to the program.


“We’re so excited to be working with Arts in Medicine,” says Elizabeth Harrison, part-owner of Crave Cupcakes. “Earlier this year we had our first cupcake decorating and art party. Patients decorated their own Crave cupcakes, and they had the opportunity to participate in expressive painting. We took a number of the paintings and created mixer shapes to promote our partnership.”


Ian Cion, MD Anderson’s artist in residence, leads Arts in Medicine and hopes the program has a positive and lasting impression for pediatric patients facing grueling challenges.


“I hope the experience translates to their sense of optimism,” says Cion. “They can experience achieving something they didn’t think they could, so it makes them feel that they can continue to fight. We use art to motivate patients and as a means of building relationships, a sense of belonging, a desire to exceed and to go beyond their fears and, ultimately, a will to live.”
Harrison says Cion’s enthusiasm was contagious during their first meeting last year.


“We realized we had the opportunity to be involved in something so much bigger than selling cupcakes,” she says. “We had the opportunity to give back to and participate in an amazing cause.”


One of Arts in Medicine’s recent projects is the Tree of Life. Debuting at the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science Sept. 10 for Childhood Cancer Survivors Day, it incorporates art that consists of burlap, beads, chicken wire and drawings.


“To me this tree is very personal,” says Cion. “Every flower reminds me of the child who made it. I feel privileged that they let me into their lives and connect with me. The tree represents responding to life’s challenges with beauty and joy.”
To date Arts in Medicine is a completely philanthropic endeavor funded through grants, donations and partnerships, such as that with Crave Cupcakes.


“This year we logged 1,500 hours through more than 1,000 patient visits, and none of it would have happened without this kind of continued support,” says Cion.

Watch the video Arts in Medicine: Artistic motivation


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center