While Raven was a patient at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, art therapy made his difficult days more colorful and helped him realize positive things about himself that he had never noticed.
The 18-year-old experienced the epiphany through participation in the Art With a Heart in Healthcare (AWAHIH) program at Wolfson, during which a volunteer artist worked one-on-one with him to help him outwardly express his inner traits by channeling his creativity into a collage on canvas.
Raven’s art, along with that of other Wolfson patients, is now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville as part of the Animal-Gamation exhibit. This marks the ninth year that MOCA has partnered with AWAHIH to display a collection of themed artworks by Wolfson patients. The exhibit is sponsored by Black Knight Financial Services.
AWAHIH is a nonprofit that provides personalized fine art experiences to help the healing process for patients and families at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. They also work with children and adult patients at Nemours Children’s Specialty Clinic, The Mayo Clinic, and Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside.
The Animal-Gamation exhibit kicked off with a reception at MOCA Aug. 11, where the young artists and their families gathered to celebrate their artistic achievements. Next to each art piece is a photo of the child who created it, along with a summary of why they chose the elements included in the art. The collection will be on display at the museum through Dec. 8.
This year, each piece in the exhibit is a response to the following question: If you could create your own animal, what would it look like? To help spark their imagination, AWAHIH volunteers printed up several sheets with the names of animals and the characteristics of each animal. The kids looked the sheets, studied the characteristics, selected two or more animals that were like them and began working on their projects.
Raven’s piece is a combination of a raven and a rabbit and is titled Raven Rabbit. “I go through a lot so I try to be positive and help other people with what they are going through as much as I can. I chose the rabbit to show that I am fearless of certain things and the raven to show my personality,” he said. “I never really knew that I was courageous and outgoing. People would tell me that I was, but I didn’t actually see it. I think making something like this showed me that I am all of those different things and that I can get through this with a smile.”
Lisa Miyares, staff member at AWAHIH, worked with several of the kids on their projects. “We kind of seized the day. If the kids were feeling well and they wanted to participate, we got them involved,” she said. “In a lot of these pieces you will see animals that show strength and perseverance, because all of these kids really need it going through the struggles and challenges that they do.”
Seven-year-old Madison clutched a chocolate chip cookie in one hand while she enthusiastically expounded on her art. With her other hand, she pointed to the pink, fluffy clouds and the sunshine on a stick at the top of her piece. “I like candy, so I drew candy clouds, and that’s a lollipop because I like lollipops,” she said.
The name of her piece is Color Changer, because the animal, a mixture between a monkey and cheetah, is able to change colors. “I picked a monkey because I always monkey around, and that’s a cheetah, because I run super fast. When I was in kindergarten, I was the fastest one,” she added.
Along with being great fun for the kids, art therapy helps to soothe them and shifts their focus onto something other than being sick. Through art, they are transported to places where they feel more at peace.
“For children in the hospital, art is so much more than a fun activity. It provides a distraction from pain, helps them express themselves during a stressful time, and is part of their healing process,” said Michael D. Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Since AWAHIH was founded in 2001 by cousins Lori Guadagno and Lisa Landwirth Ullmann, the organization has served more than 80,000 patients and their families in Jacksonville. Their partnership with MOCA began in 2011.
“This is right up our alley as far as what we do at MOCA,” said Matthew Patterson, assistant director of community & public programs at MOCA. “Our mission here is the discovery, knowledge and advancement of the art, artists and ideas of our time – so these children and their artwork fit in perfectly. We are happy to share their art with our audience.”
The partnership between the two entities has allowed young patients at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to exercise their imaginations and to flourish in the face of adversity, while allowing the public to get a glimpse of how art helps children express experiences that are often too difficult to put into words.
“It is a great honor and privilege to partner with MOCA to exhibit these great works of art by these talented patient artists. MOCA has been wonderful to work with for the past nine years and we look forward to many more years together,” said Christy Ponder, executive director and artist in residence with AWAHIH.
By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News