Art With a Heart in Healthcare’s annual patient exhibition: Thru Jan. 8, 2023
My Meredith Mathews
What helps you feel happy when you are having a bad day or going through a difficult time? In other words, “What Lifts You Up?” This is the question Art with a Heart in Healthcare (AWAHIH) presented to 16 Wolfson Children’s Hospital pediatric patients. Under the guidance of AWAHIH artists-in-residence, the participating patients created artwork conveying what brings them joy. Each work of art features hot air balloons to symbolize rising above tough situations and elevating one’s mood and mindset. This project spotlights each patient’s individuality and unique artistic styles while promoting a sense of well-being, self-worth, and healing during their hospital experience.
These special works of art, painted hot air balloons filled with everything from beloved pets to favorite sports teams, will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville September 11 through January 8, 2023. This marks the 12th year that MOCA has hosted AWAHIH’s patient exhibition in an extraordinary partnership. Young patients at area hospitals have the opportunity to view their artwork on museum walls and share their artistic expression with others. The artworks’
themes and approaches vary with each exhibition, but what is always abundant is an insightful self-awareness and confidence that art brings forth in young people faced with challenging health issues and changes to their environment. AWAHIH’s in-hospital art program gives these children and teenagers the chance to articulate their experience as well as communicate their uniqueness beyond their current situation. It is truly the healing power of art that is on display.
Since its 2001 founding by cousins Lori Guadagno and Lisa Landwirth Ullmann, AWAHIH’s artists-in-residence have guided patient-artists enduring long-term hospital stays. Today, AWAHIH artists visit patients at Jacksonville’s Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, and St. Vincent’s. Through AWAHIH’s provided art activities, young patients’ hospital experiences can change dramatically. The participants are given the option to create a work based on a chosen theme each year for the annual MOCA exhibition. These themes are developed to encourage self-reflection and expression, while fostering new skills in art media and giving patients time with their thoughts and keeping their hands busy. Past themes have included “Selfie,” which sought to show more than a quick self-portrait would normally reveal; “Un-Mask,” when participants were asked “What’s in your head?”; “A World of Their Own,” in which patients illustrated their ideal world; and “Animal-Gamation,” which asked the artists to create a hybrid animal as a new form of self-identity that houses their personality and stories.