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 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.
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