Beyond The Traditional Hospital Wall


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

Painting in a Different Language

We stood in a room awaiting the patients arrival. Anticipating the looks on their faces when they saw the activity they would get to participate in and the wonder in their eyes of the artwork in front of them.


This was my first international PaintFest. We were in Beijing, China, in a hospital much different than any hospital I had ever been in. The patients were children, escorted by their nurses and mothers or fathers. When they entered the room, I saw the excitement I was expecting to see in these little one’s eyes. All the canvases strategically laid out on the tables, with the paint bottles and brushes ready to be used by their little hands. They started giggling and looking around, eager for someone to tell them to start painting. But what I loved most about these little faces was not necessarily that they were excited for the event, but that they were quickly forgetting the pain and complications they were going through at the time. Instead, they were engulfed in a fun and creative activity. Many of these tiny patients were dealing with severe skin diseases, burns, or tumors. Most of these children were dealing with illnesses that you could see with the human eye, not just internal diagnoses. However, these children painted and laughed with a confidence about them. They talked with each other, and helped each other with their canvases. Many of them began painting silly faces and pictures on their disposable aprons and took goofy pictures with each other.

What I think was most enjoyable though, was to see the way the parents were lighting up after seeing their children paint and laugh and smile. They too forgot about the illnesses and complications, and became wrapped up in these couple of hours of painting and laughter.

Because the majority did not speak English, I did not know what they were saying, but they were all speaking with a huge smile on their face, which says a lot more than words sometimes.

This is what FFHA is on a mission for. To bring life to a place where a lot of desperation tends to live. Artwork is more than pictures on a wall. Each painting tells a story and touches another life. From one care facility to another, we spread joy!


Anna Kathryn Simmons

Why Realistic Art in Hospitals

Nurse and patient Beijing

A Discussion Between My Head and My Heart


My Head:

You need to listen to me. Abstract art is the modern style.


My Heart:

Realistic art is what the common man understands and enjoys.


My Head:

But listen to me, abstract art is unexpected…it’s like a puzzle, you have to put it together to understand it.


My Heart:

Patients don’t need to be confused or frustrated…abstract art is confusing.


My Head:

Yeah man, that’s the point…we need to confuse them a little more, make art challenging.


My Heart:

Patients are confused enough, they should be comforted by soothing colors that present realistic subjects. Just as a butterfly is a butterfly…just as a kiss is just a kiss. Medical research confirms blues, greens and realistic scenes are soothing to the viewer…the patients. We paint for patients. Not for ourselves. Don’t you remember?


My Head:

No man, why not create a whole new experience for them?


My Heart:

Well, patients are not looking for a new experience in the middle of their pain and frustration, they are looking…seeking what is familiar to them…that’s why our art brings the outside inside… into blank sterile spaces. Something familiar to them. Interior designers understand this point, why don’t you?


My Head:

Yeah man, but people need new experiences…they want to have fun away from home.


My Heart:

Buddy, being in a hospital is not a fun experience…it’s serious. Realistic art makes it easy to understand what you are looking at…you see a butterfly…your brain says butterfly.   You can’t think of two things at once. You think butterfly…not pain.


My Head:

Now wait a minute, you can use all the logic on me you wish, but your logic is actually based on a dream…a dream to make art of human value. You are chasing a dream…dreams aren’t real.


My Heart:

I’m chasing this dream to paint a brighter world. It’s a shared dream…patients, families and medical staffs have smiled for the first time in months as they joined others to paint the blank walls and ceilings that surround them. Painting realistic scenes creates smiles. Abstract art creates frustration. We’re painting out the pain with each brush stroke.


My Head:

I’m only interested in what’s cool dude…you know…what modern art galleries are interested in selling. The Now Art.


My Heart:

Let me tell you about the Now…Dude. I stayed in a nursing home and painted at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco. In front of my eyes, I saw the future. For many old people…and for sure cancer patients…the future is NOW…and it can be sad and bleak.   The walls are crying.   There are no reminders of the beauty of life on the walls. Art is full of grace.   When we finish painting, we kiss their tears and walk out the door. We need to leave something to show we care and love them. Art can love. Art is grace.


My Head:

You can’t compete with Abstract Art.


My Heart:

We are not competing with Abstract Art.   The universe is conspiring to help us. Thousands of volunteers, patients, families and medical staffs are picking up the brush with the hope that their painting will create a smile. Abstract art would only create frustration.


My Head:

But, Abstract Art can take art to another level…one enjoyed by sophisticated art lovers.   My Heart: Fine, let them take it…while we take the color of love and the familiar into places where they need art the most…hospitals and nursing homes.

We must follow our hearts.


John Feight

A Volunteer’s Perspective

Imagine a foreign hospital. Imagine white walls, stained with a pervasive brown dinginess. Imagine doctors in white garb, with green masks pulled down over their emotions. Imagine patients in papery white gowns, in white sheets, in white rooms.


In my four years with the Foundation for Hospital Art, I have learned to paint an entire hospital with only four-ounce bottles. Dragging sharpies across the walls, handing pre-dipped brushes to terminally ill patients, it all seems so mundane, but we are sharing in these small moments a substance of greater viscosity than intravenous fluid. What we leave behind is an expression of humanity, the essence of the human condition, a representation of connection even in the absence of a common language.


Eventually I find the only white left to be smiles, and that my own small, white life is painted more colorfully than any hospital I have left behind. 


Taylor Cooper

January 3, 2015

Boy in South Korea

3 Ideas for a Reception or Tradeshow

3 Volunteers

We receive a lot of phone calls from people that say “Wow, I saw one of your PaintFest® Kits at a tradeshow!” or “I was at a meeting and they had one of your kits set up for people to paint…how cool!”


I often wonder if people realize what a great enhancement that a PaintFest kit can be to an evening reception or an exhibit booth.  They literally bring color to a reception and draw people in to your booth.


Here are three great examples of how you can deploy a PaintFest kit to brighten your event:


–  During registration, you set out a couple of paintings and all of the attendees spend a few minutes pouring love (and paint) into a canvas that will be donated to brighten a local hospital.


–  As part of an evening reception or cocktail hour, you can place paintings around the edge of the room and offer a community service component to the gathering.  We call this “sips and strokes with a purpose”.


–  You are struggling to attract conference attendees to your booth.  They pass by without stopping.  Use a PaintFest Kit to draw them in and allow them to paint while you share the benefits of your exhibit booth.  People naturally want to paint and help others.


So, the next time that you need to plan a reception or exhibit, order a PaintFest Kit to make your event fun, memorable, and captivating.  Your attendees can help paint a brighter world for those in healthcare facilities!