The Gift of Art

How do you feel walking into a strange place? Into a hospital or care facility? For most people it can be an overwhelming and possibly fearful experience. Throughout my years as an artist with FFHA, I have seen the positive impact our art has had on the patients, staff and families who encounter our art.

I have seen a vibrant young man just diagnosed with a brain tumor standing in the corner full of anger, frustration and nervousness. He began to paint a ceiling tile and his doctor joined him. He was the last one to leave the event, smiling and thanking us for all we were doing.

I have seen an older gentlemen waiting in the ICU/CCU sitting area who tells us his life’s story as he helps us roll paint onto the wall, creating a sunset over a lake scene; a mother walking the hallways in South Korea stopping to gaze at the fish or jungle scene as she rocks her child; a brain and spinal injury patient who doesn’t want to leave her room for therapy, but joins in the painting and laughter of fellow patients, family and staff when she enters a room that has been transformed with music and color.

I have seen a family in Brazil who crowded around a small bed, enjoying a respite from caregiving, paint a soccer ball, cat or parrot on the wall; a family paint a rainbow over the bed frame with smiles as they transform the room with color and hope; a family in a New Orleans waiting room, hoping for a good report from the doctor, leave their seats to paint hummingbirds and flowers on a nearby wall.

I have seen stressed nurses, doctors and staff who had the opportunity to sit down for a short time, resting their mind and body as they create something beautiful; the staff at a shelter for abused children who smile as they see a child talking to the fish as they walk down the hall; the many facility workers who hang our artwork and replace blank, white ceiling tiles with colorful butterflies who receive smiles of gratitude in their effort to transform the space.

No matter where I go, I see the endless gift of hope and joy that art brings. It really is true. We can brighten our world, one painting at a time. I hope you will join me.

– Barbara Banta

My Hospital Art Internship Experience

On my first day at the Foundation for Hospital Art, I met all of my fellow interns. We asked all of the basic questions like “What school do you attend? “and “What’s your major?” After I told them “Finance”, they all had confused looks on their faces. They asked me why I was doing an internship with an art organization, and I could not give a clear answer. After eight amazing weeks with an incredible organization, I still cannot answer that question, but I can tell you why I am glad I made a choice that went against the norm. I got to meet a group of selfless, caring, and loving people who work every day to help make hospitals brighter. Every day, I got to wake up and work on something that would inspire happiness.  It was so much more than a summer internship.  What surprised me was that I ended up learning so much about business. Scott Feight, the Executive Director, taught me about what it takes to run a non-profit and as well as shared his experience in the corporate sector with General Electric. I was able to talk with many young professionals working in all parts of the business. A fantastic part of the internship involved hosting large community service events in Texas. I worked with lots of hard-working people and witnessed over 700 people paint art that would be sent around the country to benefit patients.  

The PaintFest events we led were great opportunities to meet wonderful people, and I found that I was able to connect the most with people when painting with them. One morning, two other interns and myself visited the Atlanta Mission, an organization dedicated to ending homelessness. There were only a few people painting at first, so I sat down with someone and began painting with them. I asked some questions and got a couple of nods but no verbal response, so I assumed that he did not want to talk. I quickly learned that he was unable to talk but communicated through nonverbal gestures. Although we could not communicate perfectly, we were able to connect by painting together. Experiences like these demonstrate the power of the process of painting and art itself.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone I met and worked with during the eight weeks. I especially want to thank all of the volunteers that donate their time to our mission. I am glad I was able to work for an organization with such great people and purpose.  

Carson Madsen

A Short Story – “Start of Something New”

We hope you enjoy this short story.  Inspired and written by Macy Brown.  Macy is a student at the University of Georgia and was one of our 2018 John Feight Hospital Art Interns.

“You may never regain full ability in your hands . . .”

 

Words that Sarah never thought she would hear. She was 16 years old and a promising young artist, who dreamed of going off to a prestigious art school after she graduated from high school. All of those dreams changed after she got into a severe car accident. Her mom worked hard and long hours to buy her that car for her sixteenth birthday, but that didn’t stop the drunk driver from hitting her while she was on her way home from an art exhibit at the Community Center. She had won a contest and they wanted to showcase some of her work. She chose her most prized possession: a painting of her dream-horse Butterscotch. A beautiful yellowish-brown fur coat that would be repulsing to others, but underneath a beautiful, long, black mane, Butterscotch was quite the sight.

 

Her doctor’s words made Sarah feel empty and broken. All those dreams of going off to school, studying the greatest artists, and learning all the techniques to improve were gone. Everything that she was working towards felt worthless now that she may never get to experience everything that she wanted. “But there are plenty of programs that we can try to help you regain full functionality of your fingers” he said. “There are many support groups for people that are going through this same situation,” was the reply when my mom asked about the possibility of depression. Programs. Support groups. A 16 year old shouldn’t have to know what this feels like, especially when they have their whole lives ahead of them.

 

Sarah asked if she could get out of bed and take a walk through the hospital to clear her head. Even though she may never paint again, at least she had the ability to stand up and use her two legs, right? Although her mother insisted on accompanying her, she asked to be alone just to try to wrap her head around what her next steps would be moving forward from the accident. She had two years left of high school. She was supposed to be visiting Columbia University next spring – her dream school. Only an hour from home, close to her mom, and she would be studying her passion. What now?

 

Sarah rounded the corner of the hallway and ran into two twin girls hanging a mural that consisted of six paintings – a beautiful portrait of fawns. She stopped and studied the painting. It was something that she had never quite seen before, and somehow it made her feel a little hopeful about her situation. One of the girls turned around to Sarah and smiled, “Do you like it?” she asked. Sarah loved it so much that tears came to her eyes as she thought that maybe she would never be able to paint something like this or anything at all. The other girl noticed Sarah’s tears and her cast-covered arms and immediately said, “Hey don’t cry! These paintings are supposed to bring joy, not sadness! Come on, come with us!”

 

Sarah followed them into a room filled with patients, paint, brushes, and blank canvases. Everyone from all over the hospital, no matter the condition of their health, filled the room with smiles and laughter. Sarah stopped and asked, “What is this?” One of the girls looked at her and said, “A place full of possibilities. No matter what life has thrown at you, this is the place where you come and forget about your situation and choose to ‘love through a paintbrush!’ I’m Ashley and this is my sister Ally. Our grandfather started this organization called the Foundation for Hospital Art. The goal is to bring happiness into a place that is filled with such sadness. Come on, come paint with us!”

 

Ashley led Sarah over to a table with two other young girls. One had a broken leg and the other was a cancer patient. “I don’t think I can paint though,” Sarah said and slowly held up her arms. “Painting is my favorite thing in the whole world, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to paint again.”

 

“Nonsense!” Ashley replied, “this is where anything is possible. YOU just have to believe that.” She helped Sarah pick out some paint and opened the bottles and brushes for her. She found some tape and helped maneuver the brush into Sarah’s hand and taped it to the cast, so she wouldn’t drop it easily. Before Sarah knew it, she was painting a bird. A beautiful blue and green bird.

 

“That is beautiful!” Sarah turned around and there was Ally. “This is our dad, Steven. He helped organize this event.”

 

Sarah smiled and said “Thank you, sir. My name is Sarah and I was recently in a car accident and was told that I may never paint again. It is my dream to become a famous artist one day and this makes me feel like maybe that dream won’t be taken away from me.”

 

Steven smiled, “This is why we do this, girls,” talking to his daughters, “because someone somewhere needs the encouragement to never give up on something they truly want to do.” He looked at Sarah, “do you mind if we paint with you?”

 

Sarah smiled, “I would love that!”

 

Little did Sarah know that this would be the start of a new journey. A journey filled with overcoming struggles, new friendships with Ashley and Ally, and a renewing of a passion she thought she would lose for good.

 

 

Foundation Firsts

We recently sat down with John Feight, our Founder, to talk about some of the many “firsts” for the Foundation. We hope you will enjoy these as much as we did.

The very first hospital: Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia
The very first wall mural: Ground floor, Psychiatric ward, Northside Hospital
The first hospital outside of Georgia: Sunrise Hospital, Las Vegas, Nevada
The first local news coverage: interview and story by Deborah Norville
The first national news show: CBS Morning Show by Bob Schieffer
The first national magazine: Guideposts or Forbes, about the same time
The first nursing home: located on Peachtree Street in Atlanta
The first country to paint in outside of the US: France
The first donated dollar by a patient: White Memorial, Los Angeles, California
His first painting, ever: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus
The first ceiling tile: 2nd Floor, Cancer floor, Northside Hospital
The first PaintFest multi-panel kit: Northside Hospital
The first corporate sponsors: Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Company
The first Olympics: Seoul, South Korea in 1988
The first studio location: Sandy Springs, Georgia
The first military PaintFest: 121st Evacuation Hospital, Seoul, South Korea

And some bonus questions –
His favorite color to paint: yellow
His favorite thing to paint: the sun

We hope we have brightened your day with some historical Foundation trivia.

PaintFest America – Washington State

Okay for all of you who are wondering, I’m here to give you a first hand account of what’s going on inside our PaintFest America tour. It’s time to dig in to the magic.

 

So, I’m going to take you back a few weeks to our 19th stop, to recount an absolutely unforgettable day. First of all, Seattle is an extraordinary city. Whether or not you have been to Seattle, you probably know that it has a reputation for precipitation. Well, the two days we were there, the sun was definitely showing off, as we didn’t encounter rain until the morning of departure. We enjoyed the stunning landscape, bright and alive with green rolling pines, snowcapped mountains (even in July) and sparkling sounds.

 

But the real beauty, with which the mountains and sounds could not compete, was found within the Swedish Medical Cancer Center. Having been a part of the Foundation for less than a year, this was only my second time painting in a hospital, so it was a very special experience to get to paint with the amazing and inspiring patients, doctors and staff that were there that day.

 

The Swedish Medical Center team that coordinated and facilitated the event were superstars. They had promoted the event within the hospital for months and created an incredible amount of buzz among patients. The PaintFest was scheduled to start at noon, but as we were setting up early in the morning, several patients stopped and declared how excited they were to paint once their appointments were through.

A cancer survivor in Seattle

Cancer-free and ready to paint!

 

A great example of this was when Debbie, a cancer survivor, and her son James came through the lobby around 10 o’clock. She had a check up that finished around 11am. The two then waited an hour just to participate in the PaintFest. You would have thought that a starter’s pistol for a race had sounded off by the way Debbie sprang out of her chair when the PaintFest started as the clock stuck 12. She scampered over to a hummingbird panel and stayed there until it was finished two hours later. Debbie and James had to be two of the coolest folks I have had the pleasure of meeting through this work. After chatting with James for a while, mostly about the Seattle Seahawks, I learned that Debbie had battled an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer the year before. They had come in that day for a routine check up, and the two of them stayed and painted to celebrate a year cancer free. I could hear the admiration and pride in James’s voice as he spoke about his mother. He said that there were a lot of obstacles that she had to overcome in her journey toward recovery. We both looked over at the other side of the room and smiled as Debbie worked away. I could see the light in his eyes as he watched his healthy mother paint.

 

Then there was Connie, an effervescent woman with bright red hair and even brighter clothes. She had on the matching blues and greens of our peacock design, which she would later paint. She too came around during setup, and we chatted about the Foundation, our mission, and her story. You know that a hospital is doing something right when a patient decides to make the commute for treatment from another state. Having beaten cancer once before, and retiring in Northern California, Connie was recently re-diagnosed with breast cancer. But the way she spoke about her doctors and the Swedish staff, you could tell that she felt as if she had a team of champions behind her. While the road may get difficult at times, there was no one else she would want to walk it with.

 

It was her attitude that gave me hope. Knowing that she is in a place where she feels sincerely cared for, and hearing her reasons for sticking around…4 grandkids and another on the way… “It’s all about attitude” she told me. A positive attitude may be the best medicine. So when she left, I took comfort in knowing that she is as well prepared as she can be.

 

Along with the wonderful patients, doctors, nurses and staff, we also had the great pleasure of having the support of the Seattle Reign (NWSL professional women’s soccer team) for part of the afternoon. They came straight from practice, and their presence lifted the energy of the room to heights I didn’t know were possible. Everyone was so happy to have the athletes there, and the players really connected to our mission. It was such a special experience for all involved.

Let it Reign with paint

Let it Reign with paint

 

At the end of the day, when it came time to take final pictures, my mouth was quivering from smiling all day long. So often we, the Foundation staff, are thanked for what we do, for bringing light and hope to places of care…for impacting people in such a simple but profound way. We are truly thankful for the people we meet and connect with as we paint across America. We are inspired and blessed.

 

As I laid in my hotel bed that night, the sun was still glowing orange along the horizon. I contemplated the great privilege that it is to do the work that we do. And my heart was so full of gratitude that I could not sleep.

 

Gabriela Juliano, Associate Artist, Foundation for Hospital Art