UMMC Hosts Paintfest America

By Kirsten Bannan, System Communications Intern

For patients diagnosed with cancer, treatment may mean having surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or a combination of all three. But, cancer patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) recently were treated to another type of therapy — one that indulged their inner artist and helped them step away from their illness for a moment.

The UMGCCC hosted a PaintFest America event July 7, and dozens of patients, staff members and family members spent the morning painting colorful canvas murals set up on tables in two locations in the cancer center. Several patients who weren’t able to join in the group activity even had the opportunity to paint in their hospital rooms.

The Foundation for Hospital Art is bringing PaintFest to cancer centers in every state as part of a 50day national tour that will end in New York City August 23. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to bring together families, patients and staff at cancer facilities in each state though art. “Paintfest America was nothing short of fabulous,” says Madison Friz, a 16-year-old leukemia patient who took part in the UMGCCC event after a week-long hospital stay. “As a cancer patient, it feels really good to know there are people out there in this world who care about you. To leave my hospital room to paint a picture and forget my sickness is a feeling I can’t even describe.”

UMGCCC was the only stop in Maryland on the tour, and Madison was chosen to help paint the state’s panel featuring a Baltimore oriole and a black-eyed Susan. All of the state panels will be assembled into a 10- by-15-foot mural on the final day of the tour and then returned to the hospitals where they were painted.

One of the volunteers, Morgan Feight, whose grandfather John Feight started the Foundation for Hospital Art, says that artwork provides a welcome distraction to patients and family members once the art is mounted on the walls.”

“Oftentimes, patients view hospitals as drab, starkly sterile buildings. By hanging vibrant murals throughout the hallways, we hope to change patients’ perspective and give them a sense of rejuvenating joy and hope as they stare at the designs,” she says.

Peggy Torr, a UMGCC nurse for more than 30 years, says patients were excited to take up paintbrushes and paint to participate in this event. “They were a part of something much bigger for the moment – an opportunity to calm the spirit and fuel the soul. It was palpable!”

She adds, “As healthcare professionals, we can be so task-oriented that having the opportunity to do something for our patients, instead of to them, was just amazing.”