On Dec. 1, San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson retired after 20 years working the third shift at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center.
Jan. 10, she will embark on a new arts-focused adventure as co-host of the “Arts for the Health of It” podcast, a production of the local Hearts Need Art nonprofit organization. Sanderson takes over from Richard Wilmore, who started the podcast in 2020 and served as producer and co-host with Catherine Particini.
In weekly episodes, Arts for the Health of It examines what role the arts can play in recovery from personal and societal trauma.
Wilmore and Particini recently had Sanderson on the podcast as a guest, further cementing his feeling that she’d be ideal to take over for him.
“She has done so much in the arts and health world, in her own life and in her own capabilities with her music and with her writing,” he said, praising her intelligence and sense of humor. “It’s going to be a natural progression.”
Wilmore will continue in his role as CEO of Hearts Need Art and producer of the podcast.
Sanderson said the opportunity arrived as the result of prayer and telling God “I want to use my heart for healing.”
Within days, a friend who works with the organization suggested she participate as a literary artist, helping fulfill the goal of placing musicians, visual artists and writers in hospital rooms to help patients in their healing processes. The Hearts Need Art YouTube channel offers examples of artists in action with patients.
She will eventually do that, Wilmore said, once she’s up and running in her role as co-host of the podcast.
For now, Sanderson is focused on seeking guest artists to talk about the relationship between arts and healing. And for her part, she said her years of work with detained juveniles has prepared her for her new position.
“Isolation is a scary reality,” she said, drawing a parallel between being in prison and being in a hospital. “You’re alone, you can’t leave,” and patients are in need of ways to express their fears, anxieties and hopes.
“Creativity is a beautiful thing,” she said. “It brings light into everybody’s heart when they can sing or write a poem. … It builds your self-esteem, it builds your belief in yourself, and it gives you something to look forward to.”
Both Wilmore and Sanderson said that the “Arts for the Health of It” podcast is intended to appeal to a broad audience.
“It’s for creatives, but I also think it’s for individuals who want to seek healing” in any part of their lives, Sanderson said. One feature of the podcast is demonstration moments, like Sanderson’s writing prompt during her guest spot when listeners could respond through a live chat.
Wilmore echoed Sanderson’s thoughts. “The podcast is really for people who are not necessarily artists, but want to learn about the arts and how they actually benefit your day-to-day life,” he said.
Sanderson begins co-hosting Tuesday, Jan. 10, with special guest Andrea Nelson, an Atlanta watercolorist and TikTok star. New episodes will be released each Tuesday or Wednesday. The podcast is available for free on multiple platforms.