Reflections on the Impact of Hospital Art
The last suitcase has been put away and the passports are secure until the next journey, but I find it hard to move on. The memories and images are too strong, too vivid to simply turn the page and carry on. All of the senses are in play. The smells will not fade. The sounds continue to echo in my mind. The new relationships formed stir the soul. The smiles on the patient’s faces are indelible.
The Foundation for Hospital Art just returned from a trip to Uruguay and Brazil, where we painted in numerous hospitals, nursing homes, and care facilities. Our group consisted of 17 people, but once we hit the ground, we grew to an army. As the local support gained an understanding of our mission, their passion and enthusiasm exploded.
Each PaintFest was a unique experience. Here is a sampling:
At an open-air street market, we sought to gain awareness by enlisting the public in painting for a nursing home. The sound of live music and the sight of foreigners drew in the crowd and once the paint started flying, they were delighted to give others hope.
At a local elementary school, we continued to paint for nursing homes. The unbridled joy and enthusiasm of children is the same all over the world. We had to form lines and rotate the children because everyone wanted to paint. There is something joyful about a paintbrush in the hands of a child. The world’s problems can be solved; all you have to do is give them some paint.
At two different nursing homes, we laughed, loved, and held the hands of the residents. We took pictures of the bright canvases and shared our gift with the young at heart. We were there to make sure that on this day and all those going forward that they would never be alone.
At a general hospital in Montevideo, we painted bedside with patients and then at various locations throughout the hospital. As families and patients waited upon doctors, we brought life and joy to the staff, nurses, and patients. Everyone joined in the cause to transform the interior of the hospital.
At a treatment center for disabled children, we were awestruck by the love and compassion of the staff. Quickly our staff began to paint with the children. We held their hands and guided the brushes, all in an effort to change the world. In the end, we hung six murals throughout the facility. Words cannot convey the change. The response from the staff was overwhelming.
Our last stop was a hospital in Brazil, where we painted with cancer patients. Weakened by the cancer drug regimen, the patients’ hollow eyes followed us as we began to paint. Some had the energy to paint, while others had family members step forward. As each stroke was applied, you could see the smiles begin to grow. We were giving hope one brushstroke at a time. We will not cure cancer, but we will encourage and give hope for a brighter day.
I know the memory of our experience will fade over time. For this is reality, but I hold on to the people we met and the lives that we touched. Our team was steadfast and full of purpose. We were true to the mission – art has the power to love and comfort. Together, we accomplished what we set out to do. We may be home now, but our hearts are still in South America.