Paintings and photographs by Montgomery County high school art students now brightens the walls at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney.
On April 24, MedStar Montgomery, along with the Youth Art for Healing, hosted a reception for art students who donated more 70 pieces of their work to the hospital.
Youth Art For Healing is a Bethesda-based nonprofit organization in its second year. It brings youth art into health care environments to comfort, inspire and heal patients, their loved ones, and health care professionals.
It has provided art — paintings, photos, a three-dimensional fabric quilt and mosaic birdbaths — from county high school and middle school students for Holy Cross Hospital and the Montgomery Village Healthcare Center.
Jan Papirmeister, the organization’s executive director, is a registered nurse and artist who passionately believes in art’s healing power.
Papirmeister cites a quote from nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, who wrote “Notes on Nursing in 1859.
“A variety of form and brilliancy in color in the objects presented to patients are an actual means of recovery,” Nightingale wrote.
“There was no real evidence then, but fast-forwarding to today, there is growing evidence that bringing art into health care promotes a healthy atmosphere and supports patients physically, mentally and emotionally as they recover, and also improves the quality of care, patient satisfaction, and staff morale,” Papirmeister said.
Art created by students at Walt Whitman, Poolesville, Clarksburg and Montgomery Blair high schools hangs throughout the hospital.
“We are very touched by the generous donation of artwork from Youth Art for Healing,” said Kevin Mell, MedStar Montgomery’s vice president of operations. “To be able to partner with this organization has been very rewarding.”
Walt Whitman students created 26 paintings with themes such as flowers, farmland scenes, water and lake scenes for the first floor — in the surgical waiting area, hallways outside the Emergency Department and administration, and by the main lobby elevator.
Poolesville students took 20 black-and-white photographs of flowers for display on a first-floor hallway by a garden overlook.
Clarksburg students created 14 paintings with beach scenes and sea life, trees, fields of flowers, crops and hay bales for the first floor — in the pediatric waiting area, the MRI waiting room and areas in the emergency department. Montgomery Blair High School students created 12 paintings with themes of birds in nature, dandelions, and garden bed edges for the hallway near the operating room.
Papirmeister works with health care organizations to determine their needs and with the school district to match schools with projects.
She then works with art teachers to determine the type of art and medium. Then, students submit sketches that must be approved.
Jacqueline Armstead, a Montgomery Blair High School art teacher, welcomed the opportunity for her National Art Honor Society members to work on a project to serve the community. Her students embraced the opportunity and the challenges it presented.
Daliah Barg, 15, of Bethesda, said she’d normally take home an art project when she’s done. “When I worked on this, I knew where it would be hung and how it could impact patients’ lives,” she said.
Antares Chen, 17, of Rockville, said working in groups of two or three, instead of individually, was a learning experience.
Katie Billings, 17, of Glenmont, worked with Chen on their painting. Because her mother is a gardener, she said, she incorporated her favorite flower, a pansy, into the painting because “it is such a happy flower.”
In a statement Chen read at the reception, he said that with this project, many students found a new reason to pursue the arts. “It’s not just about relaxing after a busy day neither is it expressing our own sentiments,” he said. “It is about using our artistic ability to bring a positive influence to the community.”
Simone Perez-Garcia, 16, from Takoma Park, said she usually draws from within herself for a piece.
“With this project, I had to step out and go into someone else’s mind and mentality,” she said. “It was a good experience to acknowledge other people around you.”
Her painting featured a field of dandelions fading into the horizon.
“It is meant to be comforting — a ‘keep going, things will get better’ mentality,” she said.