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If you could do anything, what would it be?

July 11, 2017 // by Denise M. Reagan

If you're a child in a hospital living with a serious illness, you might be scared, bored, depressed, or in pain. Art with a Heart in Healthcare helps fight these feelings by providing individualized art sessions for children during their time in the hospital.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, presents some results of that work in Another Side Revealed: Art with a Heart in Healthcare, on display August 5 through December 3.

Taya Another Side Revealed Portrait 885 full
Taya, age 15. Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. Image courtesy of Art with a Heart in Healthcare and Laird.

For this exhibition, each artist started with a question, "If you could be anything, go anywhere, do anything … what would it be?" In answering this question, the patients render their self-portraits as they are and as they would be. Painting on canvas, patients explore their personalities, stories, and identities in two-dimensional form. An opening reception for the exhibition is 2-4 p.m. Sunday, August 6, in the Florida Blue Education Gallery on MOCA Jacksonville's fifth floor.

“This exhibition proves how powerful art can be for children who need an outlet to express themselves and a small respite from the trappings of a hospital stay,” said MOCA Director Caitlín Doherty. “MOCA is proud to display the imaginative works created by patients in collaboration with Art with a Heart.”

“This has been one of my favorite shows! It has been wonderful to see the children free their minds from their medical worries and imagine their future through artistic expression,” said Christy Ponder, executive director of Art with a Heart in Healthcare.

Faith Another Side Revealed Potrait 885 full
Faith, age 9. Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. Image courtesy of Art with a Heart in Healthcare and Laird.

MOCA Jacksonville continues its partnership with Art with a Heart in Healthcare, a nonprofit organization that provides personalized fine art experiences to enhance the healing process for patients and families at Wolfson Children's Hospital, Nemours Children's Clinic, and Brooks Rehabilitation. Patients in the program, sponsored by First Tennessee Foundation, partner with an artist-in-residence who brings out their natural talents and expands their art-making skills while promoting self-confidence and self-awareness during their hospital experience.

“The patients found this year's art theme to be very creative. There are so many ways they could interpret themselves and their 'other' side in this project, as you will see in this exhibit. Their imagination is amazing,” said Lori Presto, program director of Art with a Heart in Healthcare.

Madisyn Another Side Revealed Portrait 885 full
Madisyn, age 6. Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. Image courtesy of Art with a Heart in Healthcare and Laird.

Founded in 2001, Art with a Heart in Healthcare provides a staff artist, community volunteers, and UNF interns seven days a week to develop sessions individualized to meet the needs of the patients and families at bedside or in groups. The nonprofit's emphasis on personal expression from a fine art perspective helps humanize the high-tech, clinical atmosphere of the hospital. Art can empower a child in an otherwise powerless situation.

“This project really gives patients the opportunity to express themselves while here in the hospital.  It also helps decrease isolation and normalize the environment for our patients on isolation precautions for weeks at a time,” said Whitney Roberts, a child life specialist at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

First Tennessee Bank, a full-service financial services company with more than 170 locations in five states, sponsors the Art with a Heart in Healthcare exhibition at MOCA Jacksonville for the third year in a row. First Tennessee arrived in Jacksonville in 2014. The company has a long history of supporting the arts, health and human services, education, financial literacy, and economic development in every market in which it does business. On the First Coast, First Tennessee supports organizations that make a positive difference and advance quality of life in the community including Wolfson Children's Hospital, Nemours Children's Specialty Care, the Sulzbacher Center, and many other charitable and nonprofit organizations by supporting the work of Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida.

Jermaine Another Side Revealed Portrait 885 full
Jermaine, age 14. Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. Image courtesy of Art with a Heart in Healthcare and Laird.

“This special exhibit illustrates how fine art can empower children who face difficult health challenges,” said John Schmitt, First Tennessee Bank Senior Vice President and Florida Market Leader. “At First Tennessee Bank, we are proud to support Art with a Heart for a third year and the healing power it gives children in our community.”

“I'm always amazed at the depth and thoughtfulness our patients put into their art because sometimes it tells a story that they may not otherwise be able to tell,” said Janice Foster, a child life specialist at Wolfson Children's Hospital. “As they work with AWAHIH, they share their hopes, dreams, fears, and hearts in a way that they may never share vocally. The AWAHIH team knows exactly how to facilitate creativity and expression, which isn't always easy. Our hospital is so blessed to have a program that helps kids stay connected to who they are in the midst of difficult circumstances.”

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