Changes at the Gallery: A Letter from the Executive Director

Here at Smith Center we are proud of the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. Due to funding, we have recently had to make some changes to the gallery including transitioning the Gallery Director position. After three years as Gallery Director, Spencer Dormitzer has moved on to a new role in the art community. We will miss his creative talent and ability to pull together deeply impactful shows.

We plan to continue producing exhibitions that are of the high quality and deep healing that Smith Center has become known for throughout the community and beyond.

We are making strategic changes to the gallery and will bring it into even closer alignment with all of Smith Center’s programs. unnamed.pngLong-time board member of the Smith Center Myrtis Bedolla will act as a consultant, to help oversee the direction of future exhibitions and programs. Ms. Bedolla has over 30 years of experience as an advisor to individual collectors and public and private institutions in the acquisition and sale of fine art; and provides professional curatorial services, lectures and educational programming to corporate, civic and arts organizations. We will also welcome a new gallery coordinator in July, Lindsey Yancich.

Additionally, we have a new partnership with Life with Cancer to co-develop a robust Integrated Art and Healing program at the new Inova Schar Cancer Institute on the grounds of the old Exon Mobil World Headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.  In addition to helping create a permanent art collection for their new space and a Smith Center Artist in Residence program, we are opening a second Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery onsite there next year with the opening of the new hospital.

So, while things are changing, we are continuing to grow and will continue our dedication to the deep healing that can be found through the arts. With this new direction, we are hoping to deepen our alignment with the art community, people who utilize our programs, and ensure that our exhibits and programs are thought provoking and restorative. I hope you will join me in my excitement for this next chapter.

Our current exhibition The Healing Studio Series features the work of Judith Capen and the late Alex Todorovich. It tells the story of life, death, pain and healing through the eyes of two courageous women and their creative force. Please stop in and view this powerful exhibition. And while visiting, please say hello. I always love to hear from you.


Jennifer Bires
Executive Director

Artists in Residence Program

Co-created by

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

and Life with Cancer at Inova Schar Cancer Center for Inova Health Systems

at the

Inova Schar Cancer Institute

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts and the Inova Life with Cancer program are pleased to announce the development of the Smith Center Artists in Residence Program as part of the Integrative Arts and Healing Program to be created for the new Inova Schar Cancer Institute scheduled to open in March 2019.

The Artists in Residence Program (AIR) will train and supervise local artists to work directly with patients, caregivers and clinicians to create opportunities for stress reduction, self-awareness and self-expression in the Institute’s outpatient infusion, radiation, and waiting areas.  The AIR Program is one component of a comprehensive integrative arts and healing program that will also include a permanent art collection and ongoing exhibitions, performing arts events, culinary arts and other workshops, as well as survivorship resources and wellness education for the public – all of which support the Institute’s core mission and philosophy to provide patient-centered care.

In collaboration with the Life with Cancer program at the Inova Schar Center for Inova Health Systems, Smith Center will recruit, train and supervise visual artists, storytellers, poets and writers, musicians, and dancers to inspire and make it possible for all who visit or work at the Institute to participate in arts-based activities.  The AIR Program reflects the belief that the creative spirit can be found in all of us and can be especially helpful when the human spirit is in need.

For over two decades, Smith Center has worked with professional artists to integrate their creative process as a tool and strategy to help others strengthen and sustain their healing process.  Smith Center artists in residence have described their work in cancer institutes and with patients and staff in other clinical settings as one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences of their lives.  Patients and caregivers who participate often express great relief from pain and anxiety associated with their illness.  Most especially, they are grateful for the opportunity to discover and explore what they Can do, when otherwise feeling inhibited or confined by their current situation.

Through Smith Center’s partnership with the Inova Schar Life with Cancer Program, Smith Center artists will have access to clinical professionals, including registered arts therapists, to receive ongoing training and supervision as members of the unique team and culture comprising the Institute.

For more information or to apply to become an Artist in Residence at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, view our Application Guidelines or contact Scott Stoner at or (202) 483-8600.


Smith Center for Healing and the Arts is a nonprofit health, education, and arts organization in Washington DC.  Our mission is to develop and promote healing practices that explore physical, emotional, and mental resources that lead to life-affirming changes for people affected by cancer.  Our programs focus on cultivating each person’s innate ability to heal, helping participants explore meaning and maintain hope—even in the face of life’s challenges.  We welcome you to join us for programs, visit us at our U Street Center and Art Gallery, or contact us to learn more: 1632 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 483-8600,

Life with Cancer at Inova Schar Cancer Institute’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer by providing education, information, and support.  This includes providing wellness and educational programs to cancer patients and their families both during and after treatment. Inova remains committed to Life with Cancer, ensuring this program delivers care to address the complex needs facing cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones.  Contact us to learn more about programs, services, and groups: 8411 Pennell Street, Fairfax, VA 22031 (703) 206-5433,

Retreat Reunion Celebrates Alumni


On June 3rd, 2018 Smith Center hosted our first retreat reunion, “Reconnect and Reaching Out”, welcoming back over 60 alumni and staff. The event, held  at the home of alumnus Tina Cleland, brought together past participants of our Cancer Help Retreats from over 20 years to celebrate our continued healing, reconnect with each other and the Center, and hear of our plans for retreats moving forward.

Many wonderful memories were shared by guests, illustrating the powerful and long-lasting impact retreats have had on people’s lives. And guests were encouraged to share their secrets of what has supported them in their healing over the years, which you can find HERE.

Thanks to our generous alum and friends of Smith Center, the reunion added over $15,000 to the Shanti Norris Cancer Retreat Fund, dedicated to supporting our retreats. Learn more about upcoming retreats HERE.

The enthusiasm for the event has inspired us to offer more reunions, so we hope to see you at future celebrations!

Meet Kiamsha Leeke

Kiamsha Leeke

Listen to the interview with Kiamsha Leeke here or read transcripts below.

A donation to Smith Center provides programs like Cancer Support Group & Retreats for people facing cancer in our community. 

Kiamsha Leeke, current Artist-in-Residence at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, shares her experience working with cancer patients and Wounded Warriors. Continue reading Meet Kiamsha Leeke

Meet Mary Billington

Mary Billington

We are saddened to announce that Mary passed on March 9th, 2018. She will be greatly missed by the Smith Center community.

A donation to Smith Center provides programs like Cancer Support Group & Retreats for people facing cancer in our community. 

Executive Director, Jennifer Bires, spends the afternoon talking with Mary Billington about her journey and the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts.

Continue reading Meet Mary Billington

Meet Chu Chu Sanders, Patient Navigator

Chu Chu Sanders

Listen to the interview with Carole O’Toole & Chu Chu Sanders here or read transcripts below.

A donation to Smith Center provides programs like Cancer Support Group & Retreats for people facing cancer in our community.

Chu Chu Sanders, a patient navigator, sits with Integrative Navigation and Cancer Retreats Director, Carole O’Toole to talk about her introduction to and experience with Smith Center for Healing and the Arts.

Continue reading Meet Chu Chu Sanders

Meet Bob Bloomfield, Cancer Support Group Resident Poet

Bob Bloomfield

Listen to Bob’s poem “Dogs Barking”

A donation to Smith Center provides programs like Cancer Support Group & Retreats for people facing cancer in our community. 

Bob joined Smith Center’s Cancer Support Group two years ago and has been a regular participant ever since. He sat down with Executive Director and group facilitator, Jennifer Bires, LICSW, OSW-C to talk about the impact Smith Center’s programs, like the weekly support group and cancer retreats, have had on his life.  Continue reading Meet Bob Bloomfield