It usually isn’t the best of circumstances when people find themselves staring at the walls in Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
Should they take a moment to focus on the artwork, however, they may find themselves smiling and thinking – if only briefly – about more carefree times. That’s the goal of a partnership between the hospital’s Volunteer Services Department and local school art programs.
“It’s a selfless expression of caring, when a kid creates something and gives it to somebody else,” said Martha L. Hickey, the hospital’s volunteer services coordinator.
“When a child is waiting for a lab result to come back or something, they come out here, and it’s a great distraction,” Hickey said recently, while leading a reporter through the emergency department on Bryant Street, where some of the student artwork is displayed.
Days earlier, Hickey had visited Queen of Heaven School in West Seneca, where she presented certificates to 48 youngsters who were the latest to donate their creations. It was the second time in five years that students of art teacher Kari Achatz have done so.
“It will bring joy and excitement and delight to children who need to be distracted by something, to take their minds off what is happening,” Hickey said during the early morning assembly, with proud parents and grandparents also in attendance.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” Achatz said, quoting French artist Edgar Degas. She then added: “I also believe that art has the ability to heal the soul. I have seen, first hand, how a work of art can bring a smile to a sick child.”
She added: “These special projects show what living the Catholic faith is all about.”
Since 2005, the hospital has accepted student art from dozens of public, private and religious schools, primarily in Erie and Niagara counties. While the hospital once sent letters to schools to solicit art, schools now approach the hospital.
The collection, which includes some three-dimensional art, now numbers about 675 pieces. Most pieces are matted, framed and labeled with the student’s name, grade, school and teacher’s names, as well as the date of donation.
Because of the hospital’s size, none of the artwork has been relegated to storage.
Since Hickey took over the program a year ago, she’s also accepted donations from the Ken-Ton School District.
There, younger students were asked to conjure up superhero characters who could help them at a time of need if they were hospitalized. One came up with “Stretchman,” who could wrap around and hug people.
Then, older students in a studio art class created freestanding, three-dimensional replicas of what had been created on paper.
“The common theme was protection while they slept,” Hickey observed. “I thought that was really telling.”
As part of its plans for a new hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Kaleida Health has been working with local cultural institutions in developing a theme for the decor. “I knew that animals and marine life were all part of it,” Hickey said.
So the pieces donated by Queen of Heaven students, representing all grade levels and some alumni, depict creatures ranging from winged to finned. Regardless of the subject, most are bursting with color.
After the recent assembly at the school, Ciera Mikolajek, who is in second grade, posed in front of her painting of birds so her mother, Jennifer, could snap a photograph.
Ciera was excited to have her picture chosen to hang on a hospital wall, said her mother, who added: “I think it’s a really cute idea.”