RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Finding ways to combine art and educating the community on healthcare is a goal for UT Health RGV.

And they are doing just that with a program called Vida Saludable.

“Vida Saludable is a healthy lifestyle campaign that showcases local artists and their talents,” said Amanda Garcia, program specialist for the South Texas Health Disparities Project. “The goal is to promote health and well-being by showcasing the talents of community members for positive health outcomes.”

The first Vida Saludable event started in 2022 as a component of the bi-annual Health Education and Promotion Pachanga events hosted by the UT Health RGV Area Health Education Centers (AHEC).

At Pachanga events, the community has access to health screenings, including A1C, vision and oral cancer, and other healthcare resources not readily available in the area.

“Our Pachangas are crucial to the community. The last event had more than 400 attendees,” Garcia said. “They are spearheaded by the AHEC scholars, an interdisciplinary group composed of medical, rehabilitation, dietetic, exercise science, nursing, and social work students who work together to make this happen.”

Garcia said the art is not always a healthcare-related theme, but just being able to look at a piece of art is a form of healthy living.

“We know that all forms of art are good for you,” she said. “Whether it be dance, music, woodwork, or painting, it involves mindfulness, it makes us feel engaged and can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.”

Clarrissa Sifutentes, from Edinburg, is one of the artists participating in the Vida Saludable initiative.

“I am thankful to have been introduced to Vida Saludable by the UTRGV College of Fine Arts and Dr. Katherine McAllen,” she said. “I want my work to bring awareness not only to mental health but also to the beauty that can be found in nature. Although my work usually portrays chaos, I believe that it also symbolizes the peace and hope that surrounds us.”

Gracie Rodriguez, a local artist from Brownsville, is also participating in the initiative.

“I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. In middle school, I would carry my sketchbook everywhere,” she said. “Now, I like to believe that my art can make a positive impact on my community. I want people to feel comfortable when it comes to dealing with anything regarding mental health.”

The next opportunity to catch the artists of Vida Saludable is April 15 at the UT Health RGV AHEC Health Education and Promotion Pachanga in San Carlos.

If you are interested in submitting artwork for the Vida Saludable Initiative, click here.