Art For Healing

l use my portrait painting skills to honor a front line healthcare worker during the height of the pandemic. Years of collaboration with Youth Art For Healing, a non-profit organization in Maryland, inspired me to reach out over social media to find a healthcare worker that I could honor with a complimentary portrait. 

When I saw how the pandemic was stressing out our healthcare workers I wanted to do something. From working with Youth Art For Healing I learned how art can provide healing and joy. I have been teaching art in Montgomery County Public Schools for 19 years and, for the past 6 years, We had partnered with Bethesda, MD-based Youth Art For Healing, whose mission is “to bring works of art created by youth into healthcare environments to provide a sense of comfort, inspiration and healing for patients and their loved ones, and healthcare professionals” (youthartforhealing.com). I work after school with my high school students to create paintings of landscapes, flowers, animals and seascapes. These paintings are then donated to healthcare facilities such as Medstar and Children’s National Health System. This is a win-win project; both creators and audience benefit from this.

A few days before we were sent home due to the pandemic, my students completed their paintings for the local healthcare facilities, so the idea was still fresh in my mind when I felt the need to do something. I put out an ad on Facebook asking for people to nominate a front-line healthcare “hero” for a free custom-painted portrait. I received nominations from people throughout the country. All had very compelling stories. 

I chose a name at random - Ashley Hiott, a civilian EMT from Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Mr. Hiott had written this to me: “This has been an incredibly hard time for everyone and I’ve cried more in the past few months than all of my time in EMS since 2003. I was having an extremely hard time a few weeks ago and my wife sent me a photo of my girls sitting in the driveway of a chalk star of life [the EMS symbol] and the words “We You”. I busted out crying in front of my coworkers and had to walk outside to calm myself down. The photo of my girls would be an awesome way to remember this time.”

Although I was planning to paint a portrait of an individual, I was very touched by Mr. Hiott’s story and was happy to paint the three girls as a group portrait. I wanted to give the painting the texture and feel of a chalk drawing to commemorate the moment. Mr. Hoitt sent her several images of the girls as well as a photo of the chalk drawing.

Mr. Hiott received his painting in the mail. His email response was: “oh my goodness this is bringing tears to my eyes. It is beautiful”. Mr. Hiott and myself keep in touch via social media.