Studies have shown that art and the expression of it can help relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. Art has also been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience. The Foundation for Hospital Art therefore produces art that enhances the lives of those who view it as well as the volunteers who produce it.
Executive Director Scott Feight explains that through the foundation, volunteers paint murals the nonprofit then donates to hospitals, homeless shelters, nursing homes, drug-treatment facilities, and more. As a result formerly drab walls instead feature bright turtles, birds, bears, frogs, and even a whale with a colorful underbelly.
In a partnership with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam the foundation has also created a collection of six Van Gogh-inspired murals, including various flowers, a seascape, a landscape, and even Van Gogh’s bedroom.
Van Gogh isn’t the only artist that has inspired works that the foundation produces. Peanuts Worldwide, the company that owns the rights to Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Woodstock, Lucy, and Linus, has given the foundation the right to create and distribute art based on Snoopy and Woodstock, perfect for walls in children’s hospitals.
The operation is the brainchild of Founder John Feight, an artist who originally painted in his spare time. In 1975 he offered to paint a mural in the pediatric department at Northside Hospital to brighten its walls. When a young patient joined him in the process, he saw how art enhances the lives of people going through difficult times. In 1984 he created the National Foundation for Hospital Art to change how hospitals look and feel by adding colorful art to otherwise sterile environments. He fashioned outlines on panels that when painted create murals that brighten the walls, days, and lives of viewers. Most of the murals are formed from six panels, although four panels are in kits intended for patients themselves to paint.
A stroll through the Woodstock facility takes you to a huge room capable of holding up to forty folks joyfully painting, including volunteers, interns, and groups of outside employees involved in team-building exercises.
“Art transforms a place,” Scott says while we wander through the building. “It leads to better attitudes of the residents and better cure rates in patients.”
While you walk around, you’ll see completed samples on the walls as well as photographs of people proudly participating in what the foundation calls PaintFests. One photographic montage shows couples—current and former patients—from all fifty states painting together. On a back wall you’ll find photos of celebrities painting murals marked for later distribution. Even General Norman Schwarzkopf is painting a panel in one of the photos.
Circle farther around the room and you’ll encounter stacks of preprinted panels waiting to be transformed into colorful murals. The foundation sends these kits to any folks interested in painting the panels and returning them to Woodstock. Workers in Woodstock such as Senior Artist Barbara Banta examine and touch up the art, if necessary, before it is shipped to its final destination.
To oversee PaintFests, Scott has traveled to about sixty countries, from Cuba to Zambia and beyond. His hope is to start an art project in Indonesia next.
Since its inception the Foundation for Hospital Art has donated more than 50,000 paintings to more than 7,500 healthcare facilities and uplifted millions of people and patients. In addition, more than a million folks around the world have picked up a brush and helped, including the famous, the not-so-famous, and people with various challenges and abilities. Schools, businesses, charities, and even athletic teams have participated in PaintFests.
Volunteers are essential to the success of the foundation. They don’t have to be artists; they simply need to be willing to spend about two hours at a time painting. Stephanie Amey explains her reason for being a volunteer. “I love the impact the foundation has made, not just here, but around the world,” she says. A retired school principal, Amey adds, “Art brings joy to people in difficult situations.”
While Amey paints near Senior Artist Barbara, across the room a group of four men and women paint together, laughing and enjoying themselves. Several other tables are empty, awaiting more volunteers to show up.
Sit down for a few minutes with Scott in the large break room suitable for team-building events, and you’ll learn much more about the man who oversees the international operation. The West Point graduate served as an officer in the military and then worked for General Electric. He admits he had concerns when his father asked him to take over the foundation. Scott was familiar with the Foundation for Hospital Art. “I was on the board and grew up around the foundation,” he explains. “Dad wanted to make art functional, and that’s what we’ve done, but when Dad asked me to take over, I wondered, ‘Am I following Dad’s legacy out of expectations or out of passion?’” To help him figure out what he should do, he spoke with his pastor, who told him his heart would guide him.
Scott says that while trying to decide whether to follow in his father’s footsteps, he recalled a time he was helping his father work with a group of abused children. One of the young girls had been mute for weeks, unable to speak to anyone about anything, much less speak to a counselor about her trauma. After working on a mural, however, she opened up and was able to speak with counselors and begin her healing process.
I wanted to dedicate my life to something that did that. I was passionate about how much difference art can make in people’s lives,” Scott says. With a contented sigh he adds, “I feel much more purpose in what I was called to do.”
Art can enhance the life of anyone of any age. Jaye Grimes, the managing editor of Enjoy Cherokee magazine, relates how art at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta helped her then-four-year-old when he was recuperating from surgery. “The first thing that cheered him up enough to make him get out of his hospital bed and room was to participate in an arts and crafts event in the lobby. He made a crown and then wore it home the day he was discharged. That arts and crafts event aided his recovery,” Jaye says. Although Archer has since undergone several more surgeries, today he is a much healthier thirteen-year-old.
As to the work the foundation does with the homeless, the Salvation Army, and veterans, Scott notes, “Art is another way to help people get back on their feet.” Scott ensures that people in the military also get involved in the foundation’s art projects.
The foundation relies and thrives on volunteers. Scott says, “Since we moved to Woodstock in 2018, it’s a joy to see the outpouring of support of volunteers in this area.” In addition to volunteers, the foundation offers a limited number of eight-week paid internships to college students.
Always evolving, the foundation has an arrangement with Disney to provide artwork for its parks and cruise ships.
Although it must charge for its paint kits, which are costly to manufacture, the nonprofit could not survive without grants as well as corporate and individual donations. To volunteer your time, make a donation, order a PaintFest Kit, or learn more about the Foundation for Hospital Art, go to HospitalArt.org.
The Mission, The Vision, and The Quest
The mission of the Foundation for Hospital Art, based in Woodstock at 131 Village Center West, is to bring comfort and hope through art to people in healthcare facilities.
Its vision is to make hospitals a beautiful place for healing.
Its quest is to donate at least one painting to every hospital in the world.
PaintFest® Event Kits include six pre-drawn eighteen-by-twenty-four-inch canvases, complete instructions, the number of necessary bottles of acrylic paint, black permanent markers, paint brushes, disposable aprons, plastic table covers, and even a prepaid UPS return label, if the shipment is within the United States. Small dots of color are already applied to the appropriate places on the canvases so everyone knows what color to paint each section.
Ten to twelve people can typically paint one kit within an hour and a half to three hours. The norm is two hours.
The canvases are designed to hang one inch apart on a wall.
PaintFest® Patient Packs are designed to encourage and uplift patients. These packs are targeted for patient rooms and involve patients themselves. In addition to the necessary supplies, PaintFest® Patient Packs feature four panels, rather than six.
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Since the 1960s Bobbie Christmas has written newspaper, magazine, and newsletter articles; radio commercials; print ads; advertorials; brochure copy; web copy; and several books that educate fellow writers. Her writings have appeared in countless national, local, and corporate publications. Beginning in the early 1990s she focused on editing magazines and books. She has lived in and loved Woodstock since 1993.