Art Brightens Visits to Hospital


(A LONG OVERDUE POSTING!)
Art Brightens Visits to Hospital – Camden children’s works on display at Cooper 5/13/08
By Matt Katz – Courier Post

The routine appointment for a bone scan began with an inspiring conversation between the patient, who is the founder of a children’s art non-profit in Camden, and the X-ray technician, who is an amateur artist with paintings decorating her office walls.

That was January. A few short months later, that chance conversation has resulted in an exhibition of more than a hundred pieces of art by Camden school children now on display in a heavily trafficked corridor at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

Marleen Vesci of Tabernacle, an X-ray technician at Cooper’s outpatient radiology facility in Cherry Hill, serves on the hospital’s newly formed Arts and Entertainment Committee.

Her patient, Barbara Pfeiffer, noticed Vesci had decorated her office with a Christmas-themed window scene she had painted.

“I’m just very sensitive to visual art and educating people to looking for it,” Pfeiffer said. “When someone like Marleen does it and combines the worlds, I’m just so grateful.”
So the two got to talking.

“It makes the patients feel good,” Vesci explained. “They say it makes them forget why they are there.”
Pfeiffer told Vesci about her 20 year-old nonprofit, Art Aware, which operates at public, charter and private schools in Camden running art classes, organizing trips to art museums and displaying children’s artwork around the city.

Pfeiffer told Vesci she is always looking for new spaces to display the children’s work.

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to present it to the committee,’” Vesci said. “She and I were so excited, I couldn’t wait to present it.”

The committee approved the idea, and the dozens of pieces of artwork are now located along the walls of a temporary bridge connecting two main buildings at the hospital.

The exhibit is expected to be up until a new, unnamed pavilion, currently under construction, is fully operational in the beginning of 2009.

“It was just a long, long walk,” Vesci said of the bridge. “It doesn’t seem so long now with all the artwork.”

Pfeiffer said the art, much of which consists of multiple students’ work collaged onto large poster-size pieces, is a “retrospective,” because it features work by students over the last several years.

A poster by third-graders at Yorkship School, for example, features paintings of percussion instruments that students made in preparation for a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Another features first graders at Molina School painting dogs as inspired by the book “I Want a Dog” by Dayal Kaur Khalsa.

Pfeiffer, who lives in Camden, often shows the students famous works of art and then tells them to interpret the works as they see fit.

“You don’t tell them it’s right or wrong, you’re drawing the picture,” she said. “So many professional artists want to get back into the mindset of kids for their creativity and spontaneity.”

Vesci said she believed displaying the work for children and their family members and the general public is a way of “celebrating the positive accomplishments of the city youth and could in some small way help change the image of Camden.”

In the past, artwork made through Art Aware has been displayed in schools, City Hall and the Camden Children’s Garden.

After the temporary bridge is taken down next year, Pfeiffer and Vesci hope the artwork is displayed elsewhere in the hospital.

“Anywhere children’s artwork is displayed is important for the patients and visitors and for the kids,” Pfeiffer said.

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