Fifteen-year-old Lisa has been in-and-out of Los Angeles County-University of Southern California (LAC-USC) Hospital since last year. As a frequent patient, she often finds herself in a hospital bed, staring morosely at a wall. On a recent Wednesday, however, she made her way to the children’s playroom to participate in the weekly fine art workshop hosted by The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization that brings art to children battling serious medical conditions. The Art of Elysium recruits volunteer artists to visit hospitals throughout Los Angeles to share their talents with chronically-ill children. For two hours each Wednesday at the LAC-USC hospital, children are given the artistic tools they need to nurture their creativity.
“It makes me feel normal when I’m painting,” Lisa said, as she meticulously painted the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge bright red while she spoke. (Hospital policy does not permit the last names of minors, or their medical conditions to be published). Today, Lisa and two other young people are turning blank canvases into dream boards, creating art that reflects their ambitions and goals. To help them express themselves, glitter, markers, paint, colored pencils, ribbons, scissors, pencils and tissue paper have been spread along two wide tables.
“I’m not an artist,” said 15-year-old Sergio, a first time-Elysium participant, “but art makes me feel good.” Sergio was in his hospital room with his mother and brother when a member of the LAC-USC hospital staff invited him to come down to the children’s playroom. So all three ventured to the playroom to spend time together and create art.
Volunteer artist, who assisted the hospital patients while they painted, Leila Baboia, heard about the non-profit organization from a friend who participated in The Art of Elysium’s Self-Esteem Girl Talk Program, an eight week program for girls that are seven to 16 years of age who have been born with facial disfigurements.
“Most of our volunteers get involved through word of mouth,” said Program Director Leslie Culp, who has been with the organization for five years. The organization also goes to LAC-USC on Tuesdays and Thursdays, bringing improvisational comedy and music to the children.
“Through four main disciplines, Music, Theatre/Media Arts, Fine Arts and Fashion/Design, The Art of Elysium runs about 100 workshops a month in pediatric hospitals, The Lowman Special Education School, The Braille Institute and with other support groups, “ Culp said. “If a patient is not able to physically come down to participate in our activity, we bring art to their room,” Culp said. She added that another advantage of the program is that it presents an opportunity for kids to meet other children with the same diagnosis. Child Life Program Director Maria Elena Tome runs the children’s playroom at the LAC-USC hospital and reports directly to doctors on the social progress of their young patients, “When the kids come to the children’s playroom they may not be feeling well, but they get engaged with the artwork and the artist, and leave with tangible art that they can be proud of,” said Tome who went on to say, “The Art of Elysium helps kids leave here with a positive hospital experience.”
To learn more about the Art of Elysium, visit: http://www.theartofelysium.org/