Bring healing art to children in medical crisis

 
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Eddie
Eddie's Dinosaur Painting!

The CHAP hospital team has stitched together a 4-part story for you. This illustrates the fact that we get to have ongoing relationships with patients staying in the hospital for their treatment, and their families. They have the opportunity to work with all 4 of us and try out so many different types of art.

 Stitch 1: Mary’s Thread

Eddie* is a five-year old with eyes like saucers. He looks so little in his big hospital bed, his mother by his side. It is Friday afternoon. I introduce CHAP and tell them to come join us in the Play Room. Eddie translates the invitation in Spanish to his mother. They do come in and his mother is thrilled and becomes absorbed with the beading. Eddie paints and then we decide to do a clay sculpture. I ask him what he wants to make and he says to me that he wants to make a visitor because he doesn't have any. So we make the most colorful, feathered, cheerful, crazy ‘visitor’ imaginable and place it right by his bed. I can't get that sad thought out of my head, though - NO visitors! 

The next week he is having a procedure and when Friday rolls around and I knock on his door – the room is full of visitors! He seems to have a regular parade of them...at all times. Eddie with the big eyes and a flair for either tall tales or comedy has become a regular on CHAP days and we all treasure our time spent with him and his wild imagination.

 Stitch 2: Sharon’s Thread

A week or two after Mary worked one-on-one with Eddie to make his clay ‘visitor’, Eddie joins CHAP again at the art table. His nurse asks if he can be in the Play Room with us while his mom squeezes in this chance to take a quick shower. Eddie starts to build a necklace and is doing quite a nice job when his mother arrives, fresh and clean. He presents the necklace to her and she proudly places it around her neck.

The 2 of them proceed to work side by side. The mother makes a necklace for her son much in the same fashion as Eddie did for her. They are creating things so quietly. Intermittently, they stop for a nose kiss or some other sweet exchange. Their connection is palpable and the love between them is flying back and forth. They produce 5 or 6 pieces of jewelry and leave the Play Room arm-in-arm.

 Stitch 3: Maxine’s Thread

It is a quiet Tuesday afternoon in the playroom. Only one artist has joined me so far, and she sits happily absorbed in the patient and meticulous creation of the miniature sculptures that have become her expertise.

Then Eddie appears in the doorway, and remembering Mary's story of the "visitors", I was pleased to see that his father accompanied him.

First question that leads to a long string of questions that leads to a painting...

"Eddie, what would you like to do today?"

"Paint."

"Ok."

Eddie chose his paper, paint and brushes, and then we both sat at the little table, art supplies in front of us and observed each other for a few minutes.

"What would you like to paint?"

"I don't know."

Looking around the room I noticed the plastic dinosaurs on the windowsill.

"Do you like dinosaurs?"

"Yes."

Eddie, who has a very discerning eye, takes his time to pick out the dinosaur most suitable to his taste...the one with the really, really, really long neck.

I place the dinosaur on the table for reference and hand Eddie a pencil.

"Would you like to draw an outline first?"

"I don't know how."

Again remembering the "visitors", I sensed that this little guy could use some support here. So I suggested that I draw and he direct. That was fine with Eddie.

So I drew and we talked about visual relationships - where to place the eye on the head, how to make the back legs appear behind the front, how to make shadows with the pencil and then blend and smudge them with his little fingers for added effect.

So now the outline drawing was accomplished and we sat back to give it the Eagle eye.

Eddie keenly observed that the neck didn't appear to be long enough, and placed the plastic dinosaur on top of the drawing to compare. Indeed, the neck was an inch too short!

Erase and redraw to exact specifications.

At this point I was happy to see that Eddie was beginning to thrive as art director.

He boldly pointed out that the dinosaur skin had lines all over it and was not one color but many. We mixed and mixed and mixed until we arrived at the exact shades of green and brown. Eddie practiced and began to use fancy brush strokes to create the texture he wanted.

His ideas at this point were limited only by the size of the paper.... "Leaf trees" and grass for food, a volcano erupting, a big yellow sun, a helicopter flying through the air.

"Ok, I'm done"

"Good job, Papi" said his father proudly.

"Awesome job, Eddie! This was fun."

High five.

Eddie leaves the room proudly clutching his picture, which he adds to the collection of artwork on his door.

Stitch 4: Carolyn’s Thread

Eddie was in the playroom as soon as we arrived on Saturday. Quiet, not much energy and couldn’t decide what to do, but there and ready!   He went right to work with clay.   His sister soon arrived and with her arm around his shoulder, he began to talk and perk up a bit as he began to create a variety of food themed friends. He carefully mixed green to get just the right color for his pickle creature. Soon, this usually quiet young fellow was chatting constantly! “What is the order for putting things on a hamburger?” he asked his Mom.   Back and forth they talked as he made each of the items out of clay and assembled his hamburger critter, complete with feathers and googly eyes.

Close to four o’clock we marveled and his large collection of food creatures, and their possible need for a place to stay. He agreed saying, “Then they can keep me company when my family is not here.”   Curious, as I’ve never seen him without family.   I thought perhaps some small structure but no, a large canvas with blue walls and a door in the middle. He knew exactly what he wanted and clearly directed the construction. Almost never ceasing to talk for the entire afternoon, he left delighted with all his critters in their house, to keep him company!

Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP) provides over 9000 unique healing art experiences each year to children like Eddie and their families in medical crisis, working in partnership with community hospitails and organizations.

We invite you to donate on GlobalGiving's Bonus Day today, Wednesday, July 15th, from 6am PST to 9pm PST.  Your generous donation during this time will be matched 50% ensuring that CHAP can continue to bring our renowned art programs to children and families in medical crisis - always free of charge.

CHAP thanks you for your continued support!

*Name has been changed to honor confidentiality

Links:

Art Teacher Sharon proudly modeling the necklace
Art Teacher Sharon proudly modeling the necklace

Here is a tale about true radiance as witnessed at one of CHAP's partner hospitals.  I pass a patient in the hallway who has her hair in the most beautiful twist.  I complement her and she, in turn, tells me she likes my skirt and reveals that she has the same skirt in her wardrobe at home.  I invite her come to the Family Room to do art with us.  She responds favorably, but I don't see her for a couple hours.  When she does return, she arrives with her husband.  He is pushing the wheelchair behind her.  She sits down at the table and quickly dives into a jewelry project.  She has an amazing sense of style.  She starts laying out orange, crimson red and canary yellow beads.  Vibrance seems to be the order of the day.  With great clarity, she describes to me her vision.  Originality prevails and within minutes we are doing amateur wire wrapping.  All the while, she shares little parts of her private story with me.  She wants the look of fringe or a tassel on the bottom of her dramatically long necklace.  We pull out the headpins for making earrings and we tinker and scheme about how to achieve the goal.  This lady exudes radiance and gratitude.  She openly expresses her delight to have this opportunity to make something.  She has sewn all her life, but this is the first necklace she has made.  She beckons her husband to the table.  She encourages him to make a necklace for her.  He works quietly.

At the end of our hour together, she is bursting with joy.  She made a stunning one of a kind piece for herself and she is so proud of her husband.  She, in her hospital gown, wants to document her creation.  She puts it around my neck and asks me if I am willing to pose for a picture.   I tell her I cannot wait to show my co-workers the design she came up with.  She tells me where to stand and directs her husband to move a cart of books out of the shot.  She takes this picture of me.  She was incredible and she was amazing to spend time with.  As I was leaving the floor, I passed her and her spouse in the hallway.  She was seated in her wheelchair, wearing both the necklace she engineered and the purple necklace her husband made for her.  She was sharing her experience with her nurse.  She walked towards me and hugged me good-bye.  This will register as one of the most unforgettable CHAP moments.  It was a powerful intersection of art (in the hospital) and . . . Humanity.

Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP) provides over 9000 unique healing art experiences each year to children and their families in medical crisis, working in partnership with community hospitails and organizations.

We invite you to donate on GlobalGiving's Bonus Day today, Wednesday, May 13th, from 6am PST to 9pm PST.  Your generous donation during this time will be matched ensuring that CHAP can continue to bring our renowned art programs to children and families in medical crisis - always free of charge.

CHAP thanks you for your continued support!

At first glance
At first glance

"Strength, Comfort and Love"        

 On a recent afternoon, CHAP easily recruits a mother-daughter pair to the art table. They decide to start with painting. Within a few minutes, the mother has a game plan. She scrolls through photos on her phone and finds what she is looking for.  About a year ago, her oldest child painted a memorable painting and the mom decides to try and replicate it.  Art teacher Mary offers a deluxe foam core 'canvas' to Mom and another to her little girl, the patient. The mom gets to work quickly, but she keeps referring to the image on her phone. She asks for exactly the same paint colors. Mary notices her reliance on the smart phone and liberates the woman by saying, "Okay, you know what it looks like. Now make your own version." Freed up, the mom works from her impression of the child's painting. She already knows the spirit, energy and the mood of the painting. In fact, she knows it intimately and she simply switches over to a place where she trusts herself. It just took a well-timed nudge from Mary.  Mom paints happily, commenting at one point that she has spent the past 5 years raising 5 children. “I have been busy, no time for art.”  Now here she is with this bizarre idle time in the hospital. She seizes the opportunity. Dives in. Mary engages the young child. The canvases that belong to the mother-daughter pair are essentially back-to-back, raised up on little tabletop easels. They cannot see what the other is doing. Mary and the child are squeezing generous amounts of glitter glue all across the 20" x 20" surface. When both mom & daughter get to a stopping point, mom comes around the table to admire her little girl's artwork. Then it's time for the child to go see what her mom has been focusing on. Together, they walk over to mom's canvas. The look on the little girl's face is priceless. With big eyes and an open mouth, she says, 'Wow. It's awesome!" The mother is giggling and proud. Mom lets it dry a little bit before adding a few finishing touches. When she steps back to regard her painting, she says this to me. "When I look at this - I feel strength, comfort and love." She really is reflecting while she states these words. It's incredible to be there to hear her say it. She debates adding some text to her painting, but she's skeptical about her lettering skills and doesn't want to ruin her masterpiece.  I suggest to her that she can use those words as a title for her piece. She likes this idea and fills out a form to enter her painting in our next hospital art show. She entitles the piece, "Strength, Comfort and Love - in honor of Sarah.

Links:

Art brings together new best friends
Art brings together new best friends

At CHAP’s annual Art Camp, two teenage girls of the same age, both confined to wheelchairs meet and greet for the first time. While making art, their friendship takes off like they have known each other for a lifetime.  They begin to giggle about boys, talk about fashion, preferred colors of nail polish, what music they like, schools they attend, movies and the best pizza in town.  They assist each other in getting materials and talk about ideas.  Their disabilities disappear.

The first two days were full of painting, glittering, beading and mask making, followed by shortstop action videos the next.  This is where I overheard, the now best friends, talk about the bullying they experienced in their lives.  It wasn’t an occasional thing, but a daily harassment that kept them feeling connected to the peers around them.  They commiserate with one another and one begins to cry.  She talked about the cruelty and how it impacted her daily life.  One example she shared was that she was unable to go to the bathroom in a public place without the assistance of her mother or caretaker for fear of ridicule.  Her new friend was quick to respond with love and compassion assuring her that she would find a way.

On the fourth day of camp, a miracle of sorts occurred.   The young woman who had cried the day before came in with a newly found confidence that we hadn’t seen in the preceding days. Whether direct or indirect, the connections made while making of art can heal the deepest of wounds.  What we experienced that week will impact each of us for the rest of our lives.

Mother and child
Mother and child

A mother is daydreaming of far away places as she waits for the results of her sick child’s tests.  With some consideration, she picks up a graphite pencil and draws a cluster of ten palm trees on a handmade canvas made of donated foam core painted with primer.  Other members in the room include a teenage boy, parents of an isolated child and two children from another family on the hospital floor.  Most everyone around the table is painting on this day.  The mother drawing the tree had never painted before.  She was nervous, unsure she could transfer what she had drawn with paint.  With encouragement and a pale acrylic yellow paint, she adds the glow of the sun in the corner and then a tree and another.  The resulting effort knocks our collective socks off.  Soon after, on another sunny afternoon, she is eagerly at the table ready to draw.  This time, she uses Crayola crayons to create a entire tropical scene.  Following that, she starts a second painting.  This one is tropical in theme with a slightly more sophisticated composition.  Her palm trees are leaning towards the light and are much more dynamic.  White highlights are added to the trunks of the trees and the crests of the waves.  More detail is added to the sky.  Her progress is already notable.  On Friday evening, she returned to the art table wanting to create a Spirit House the shape of a Tiki Hut, like the ones from her homeland.  Spirit Houses are one of the many engaging projects CHAP offers the families we serve.  Her house becomes a transport, away from the hospital smells and sounds, to a distant land filled with palm trees and white sandy beaches.  She works hard to add a front porch.  I began to notice that her house design mimics the crayon landscape from a few days ago.  The next day, I arrive to an art room that is already joyously animated, except for the mother who painted the trees.  She is sitting in the corner, gazing out of the window, looking lost.  I could feel her sadness the moment I saw her.  The news was grim.  She was taking her precious child back to the island to die, nothing more could be done.  She had come to the art room to finish her painting to take home with her as a physical reminder of her child and all of the “wonderful people that treated me like family”.

The first drawing
The first drawing
The first painting
The first painting
The final painting
The final painting
The Tiki Hut Spirit House
The Tiki Hut Spirit House

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Project Leader

Heather Housen

Portland, OR United States

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Map of Bring healing art to children in medical crisis