Behind the Mask: Sept 11 – Jan 2, 2022

Nonprofit organization Art with a Heart in Healthcare (AWAHIH) provides personalized art experiences to enhance the healing process for patients and families at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Clinic, St. Vincent’s, Mayo Clinic, and Baptist Medical Center. Each year, now for eleven years, patients collaborate with AWAHIH Artists-in-Residence (AIR) to create artwork on a unique theme, then exhibit the body of work in a cohesive exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville. The theme is prompted by a question, and this year’s question is all too appropriate for these pandemic times: “What are you thinking or saying behind your mask?”

For this year’s creative process, AWAHIH Executive Director Christy Ponder says the AIR team brainstormed ideas for a prompt that would be relevant to the current times and enable Wolfson Children’s Hospital patients to express themselves in a meaningful way through a medium that is easily sanitized and safe for patients to use. They chose to help the patients create digital art, using tablets and the art-making application ProCreate.

First, the AIR team took photographs of each patient participant wearing a mask. Then, they guided the participants through transforming these portraits into skillful works of art in ProCreate, inspired by the style of iconic pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The process included patient artists designing personalized face masks unique to their interests and personalities and embellishing the portraits with dot patterns and bold colors similar to Lichtenstein’s comic-book style imagery. This style enhances the expressiveness in these visually stimulating works of art. 

Ponder says the patients had fun learning new, innovative art techniques, but the creative process of “Behind the Mask” also encouraged them to be introspective as they reflected on the question at hand. They communicated their answers to the AIR team who later translated them into quote bubbles to accompany their portraits. Being able to express their inner thoughts and feelings in a tangible, artistic way proved to be a positive experience for patients. By working with the AIR team to create their works of art, patients were able to elevate their natural talents and expand their artistic expression.

This collaboration with the AIR team promotes self-confidence and self-awareness during the patient participants’ hospital experience. The exhibition of their work instills a sense of pride and accomplishment. 

“Behind the Mask” will be displayed in MOCA through January 2, 2022 and then in other locations around Jacksonville for many community members to see and enjoy. The exhibition is sponsored by Florida Blue Foundation.

A virtual opening reception and event for the exhibition was held online in September. Guests were able to hear from patients, the AIR team, and program sponsors, and had an opportunity to participate in a virtual tour of the exhibition. 

MOCA Jacksonville, 333 N. Laura St., (904) 366-6911.

To learn about Art With A Heart in Healthcare, visit

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Author: Arbus

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