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

Painting with the Troops

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Have you ever been on a military base before? I’m sure some of you have, and know about the high security, or can recall seeing a tank or two cruise down the road. You may have seen a soldier or two… or several thousand.

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, as I had been up until a few weeks ago, all of the previously mentioned scenes were bewildering to me. But most striking of all was the fact that these places are their own little cities, made just for the military personnel and their families. Of course, the base is gated, and inside those gates are grocery stores…post offices, homes, lots of homes… and Burger King’s, notably. No one gets inside the front gate of a military base who is not meant to be there. I would know, I couldn’t find my ID, but that is a story for another day.

 

But, getting back to the point. Fort Stewart is a world of its own. A world that I was not only fortunate enough to see, but interact with on a personal and profound level.

 

Being a new member of the FFHA team, I am exposed to new and profound experiences on a regular basis. This PaintFest in Hinesville, Georgia, just west of Savannah, has been the most enriching and eye opening thus far.

 

The plan was simple, let’s paint and touch-up murals with 300 hundred soldiers. We had three different groups throughout the day, and painted with 100 soldiers and their families per session. Our level of need in terms of volunteer support is significant, and we literally had an army to help us. I thought that was pretty slick that we were able to say that.

 

How was the actual PaintFest event itself? Well, I was smiling from ear to ear the whole time, and so was the rest of the FFHA team. Being in a room with hundreds men and women who so bravely devote their lives to protecting the freedom of our country, was such an honor. Each face was captivating, every conversation riveting. We were in a room full of heroes, and the truth of their heroism was palpable.

 

As the day went on and each new group of soldiers and family took their seats, I couldn’t help but wonder about each person’s story. Where had they come from, what had they been through to this point…where were they heading? I got to know and interact with many of the service men and women, and some of those questions were answered, but the vast majority remained unknown. There was however one thing that remained clear all day. Painting is fun. Giving back is rewarding. The room was buzzing with color and cheer, and nothing else seemed to matter.

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Thank you Fort Stewart for the best PaintFest yet, and for helping our mission in an immeasurable way. But mot importantly, thank you for serving our great country. We truly hope to see you again soon.

 

Gabi Juliano

Associate Artist

Foundation for Hospital Art

 

Beyond The Traditional Hospital Wall

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One of the most impactful PaintFest events I have ever been a part of was in the Spring of 2014 in Evansville, Indiana, where we painted on the walls of a children’s psychiatric hospital. The facility was designated for children dealing with mental illness to be able to live in a safe and stable environment for a few months, while learning effective ways to communicate with others and learn positive ways to deal with difficult situations.

Many people might think our artwork is only donated to traditional hospitals, but our artwork is for everyone!

We drew and painted directly on the children’s bedroom walls. We spent 3 days drawing kites, animals, flowers, fish, and puppies on their walls! I personally feel that this is a great representation of the power of artwork. It is healing and personal to each individual. These children were dealing with real hardship. I was heartbroken over some of the stories. Each child after having seen the artwork, had the same reaction…joy!

One little girl was amazed at the colors of the flowers in her room and was eager to pick out her paint and start filling in the spaces. Another little boy got sport-themed kites on his wall, and loved that the ribbons on the kite were flowing directly over his pillow on his bed.

Each individual child found something they liked most about the drawings, and got to talk about those things with their teachers and counselors. It was such an incredible experience to see these children, dealing with grief and pain on a daily basis, respond so positively to the artwork.

Anna Kathryn Simmons