Tag Archives: Phoenix Children’s Hospital

Let me call you sweet art

Artist Kit Carson created this bracelet for the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

Enough with the chocolates and flowers already. Enough with holidays that tell us when, where and how to express our love. Enough with token gifts fraught with misgivings rather than meaning.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day if you must, but get your heart on with gifts that truly matter — enriching experiences and choices that enhance our communities — instead of mere bon bons or bling.

Choosing Valentine’s Day gifts for children? Support our local hospitals and medical centers by hitting their gift shops for playful presents like games, stuffed animals and craft kits.

I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Phoenix Children’s Hospital gift shop in their stunning 11-story tower, but I’m enjoying hunting in the meantime for treasures in the east building’s gift shop.

There’s plenty to choose from in all price ranges — including jewelry, clothing with an artsy feel, art activities and board games you might not find in your typical toy store.

Museum gift shops offer lots of fun finds for children and adults. Think the Heard Museum for gifts with an American Indian theme. The Musical Instrument Museum for all things music-related. The Phoenix Art Museum for sweethearts who appreciate art in every nook and cranny, even the kitchen.

Plenty of performing arts venues have gift shops full of unique fare with an artistic flair. Think Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Mesa Arts Center, Tempe Center for the Arts and more.

Watch for gift boutiques when you attend performances by Valley arts organizations. I often encounter fun goodies when seeing the Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona Opera or Ballet Arizona perform at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.

Some arts organizations, including the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, have their own on-site gift shops — and invite folks to stop and shop even when they’re not there for a performance.

There are plenty of options for those of you still rushing to put together that perfect Valentine’s Day experience. No need to panic with those pesky pajama grams.

Instead of dinner and a movie, treat your beloved to a film festival (perhaps a romantic trip to the Sedona International Film Festival) or a night out to enjoy art, dance, music or theater. (Better yet: Pop for season tickets.)

I suppose I won’t reject any bon bons or bling that might come my way this year, but I’ll have to fight the urge to turn everything over and search for evidence it came from one of the community causes I so love to support — even in small ways.

— Lynn

Note: Don’t forget the charm of homemade gifts of art with heart — your local bead shop or pottery painting store can help with ideas, materials and even execution of your project

Coming up: The fine art of daily blogging


Does art have healing powers?

The folks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital certainly seem to think so. And after touring the new hospital wing, currently under construction, I’m inclined to agree.

"All the hospital's a stage...or canvas" thanks to artistic use of light, shape, color, texture and more in the new wing of Phoenix Children's Hospital set to open late Jan 2011

I explored the first three floors of this work in progress along with Daniel Friedman, the magazine’s “DYK?” writer and photographer par excellence, just last week.

Upper floors are still in the “hardhat” stage when it comes to tours, and we weren’t fortunate enough to have time that afternoon to don the hardhats and other gear that would assure our safety.

But I’ll be writing about the wonders of all 11 floors in a future piece for the magazine.

Think high-efficiency lighting, calming colors and shapes, and curved lines that up the warm and inviting factor.

The first freestanding Phoenix Children’s Hospital opened in May of 2002. I recall being impressed while touring that site with both the quality and quantity of artwork created by children and teens in school or community settings.

It’s still there today. Shadow boxes with three-dimensional hearts or animals. Wall murals with butterflies and flowers. Bright, cheerful paintings that make it clear this is a place, first and foremost, for children.

Parts of the new wing will be open and in use come the end of January 2011.

We didn’t see any traditional art pieces hanging on the walls during our tour, but we saw plenty of walls, floors, furniture, lights and other elements that doubled as art in their own right.

Instead of primary colors, used in the first freestanding complex, this wing features more natural desert shades of colors like green, blue, yellow and orange. Walls sport small shiny tiles that reflect light or iridescent strips that glimmer like mother of pearl.

Each floor has its own color scheme, theme and flower — reflected in elements such as photographic wall murals, signage, furnishings and more. Those of you who consider cooking an art will be especially wowed by the new dining area, which features a blend of retro and ultra-modern touches.

There will be less need for art to hang on the walls in this new portion of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Most of the walls have plenty of their own colors, shapes, textures and other unique touches.

And although it’s very visually appealing, the ambience of the new wing is calming. I imagine it will at once cheer and soothe the children and teens who receive care there.

There’s also a spacious garden area where parents can spend time in reflection and relaxation — an especially necessary environment when facing the stress of a child’s hospitalization.

A giant chandelier will hang in the atrium of the new hospital wing, another testament to the care architects, designers and planners have taken to honor the healing power of art.

Whether or not your child receives care at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, this is a place you will want to explore with your family. You’ll see design elements it’s unlikely you’ve encountered elsewhere, and you just might find yourself inspired to new ways of thinking about your home, your health and your community.

— Lynn

Note: Visit Phoenix Children’s Hospital online to learn more about the hospital’s history, future plans, patient services, community outreach and volunteer/donor opportunities. For more photos of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, visit them on Flickr.

Coming up: Musings on art therapy, Celtic dance to chorus line, Parties with a purpose, The fine art of dinosaurs?

Photo: Lynn Trimble tests a “squishy tile” while tourng the new wing of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Special thanks to photographer Daniel Friedman for capturing the remarkable likeness between these tiles and my hair color.

Make an art teacher’s day!

Small gifts of time, talent or financial resources can make a big difference in school arts programs — especially when we all pitch in. Enjoy supporting  arts learning at your child’s school in one or more of the following ways:

Research, plan and/or chaperone for arts-related field trips

"Kate's Flower" by Kate M., Age 5

Volunteer to create/install bulletin boards or other exhibit spaces

Donate arts-related books or other media materials to the school library

Attend school arts performances — even when your child is not performing

Pay (or offer to simply do the shopping) for arts-related supplies

Invite friends, family and neighbors to school art exhibits and performances

Share information on arts events and organizations happening in the community with school art teachers

Volunteer to assist with art projects in the classroom (and school clubs)

Donate funds dedicated to professional development for arts teachers

"Lion's Heart" by Gabriel C., Age 7

Volunteer to plan, coordinate and/or execute art exhibits and other events

Suggest community partnerships that might benefit schools and businesses/other organizations

Donate arts-related items you’re no longer using at home (such as musical instruments)

Offer to fund an arts-related field tip to visit a museum or see a theater, dance or music performance

Talk to art students about your own arts-related interests, hobbies or career

"Shy Bear" by Isaiah G., Age 7

Donate art storage items such as cabinets, shelves and crates

Volunteer time to sew costumes, paint sets and more

Stay informed about arts education issues and let legislators know the arts matter in our schools

Support creative play at home with time, space and materials for making visual art, theater and more

Give arts-related gifts such as subscriptions to arts magazines dealing with teacher areas of interest

Help arts teachers develop and share their wish lists of needed materials

Photograph student art to display on the school website

"Happy Flower" by Eilene, Age 12

Volunteer to read arts-related books during storytimes

Share interesting articles you come across about arts news, education, policy and more

Donate gift cards teachers can use at art supply stores

Collect supplies arts teachers are looking for (such as newspapers for paper mache)

Volunteer to arrange guest speakers/guest performers in the arts

Let administrators and board members know you value arts education

"Cutout Snowflake" by Toby M., Age 7

When in doubt, just ask. And remember to thank and compliment your child’s art teachers when you admire their work. Encouragement and appreciation can be the finest gifts of all.


Note: If you’re an arts teacher or parent with other ideas and suggestions on supporting school arts programs, please share them with fellow readers in the comment section below

Coming up: Arts camps for fall/winter break

Artwork featured in this post is from the PCH Kids Art collection, available through Phoenix Children’s Hospital at www.pchkidsart.com. The collection includes art prints, all occasion cards, holiday cards and more — with proceeds benefiting the PCH Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

The fine art of farce

A Valley reviewer recently dubbed Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off” the “best comedy you are likely ever to see.” I’d be inclined to agree had I not seen so much fabulously funny fare from this professional theater company through the years.

There’s plenty more to come from Phoenix Theatre — including the first production of the racy Broadway musical “Avenue Q” by an Arizona theater company. Who’s to say they won’t outdo themselves yet again?

Their casting is simply superb — and this show is no exception. Add a complex and creative set, maddeningly funny material and music to knock your socks (or boxer shorts) off — and you have a farce that’s nothing short of fine art.

"Noises Off" elevates farce to a fine art (Photo by Laura Durant)

Direction by Matthew Wiener, producing artistic director for Actors Theatre of Phoenix, only fuels the flames — for both the fantastically talented cast and the audience members who mistakenly presume they are out for a night of modest theater.

Picture yourself in a British theater waiting for the curtain to rise on “Nothing On” presented by “A Noise Within” productions. You’re leafing through the program only to discover actor/creative team credits that include playing Britain’s most famous lollypop lady, winning a coveted medal for violence, and loving anything small and furry.

It’s easy to imagine because every “Noises Off” playbill includes a fictitious “Nothing On” program replete with cast/creative team bios as well as a lovely bit of dramaturgy borrowed from an expert ‘in the semantics of Bedroom Farce.’

Members of the "Noises Off" cast in all their slapstick glory (Photo by Laura Durant)

If you carefully read the pseudo-program before the curtain opens, you’ll get your fix of fascinating facts about various elements of the production — the slamming doors, the falling trousers, mistaken identities and more.

You’ll discover that uproarious laughter, for some, “is a metaphysical representation of the sexual act.” If that’s the case, you’re in for one heck of an orgy when you see this show.

Good news for parents: Other than a black negligee and boxer shorts (not worn together, thankfully), there’s little that’s explicitly rude or crude in this show. It’s rife with inuendo, but I can’t imagine that many kids would catch the subtleties. They will, however, appreciate the many triumphs in physical comedy.

You never know where that baggage might end up (Photo by Laura Durant)

“Noises Off” by Michael Frayn consists of three acts featuring the folly of a ficticious “Nothing On” production. Act I depicts the final rehearsal for “Nothing On” — setting up characters and situations that won’t be fully appreciated until later in the work. It’s funny, but you won’t yet find yourself wishing you’d made that last minute potty stop.

Act II reveals a bevy of backstage bungling as we witness a performance of “Nothing On” from behind the scenes. It’s funnier and more outrageous than the first, but the farce really hits the fan during Act III, when we finally see the onstage mayhem as it appears to unwitting audience members.

Plenty of pratfalls involve persnickety props — a disappearing and reappearing plate of sardines, a rotary dial phone with a tendency-to-tangle cord, flowers that never cease to find their way into the wrong suitors’ hands. The rotating set-piece — the two-story home where “Nothing On” is set — is equally delightful.

I do have to wonder, though, whether younger audiences would be more appreciative if the work was updated a bit with Starbucks in lieu of sardines or computer wires in lieu of telephone cords. Of course, there’d be no stopping there since the world may soon be wireless — and the modern day quest for efficiency robbed of sensual pleasures like reading a paperback book over a cup of coffee might just as easily bring caffeine injections via some sort of biochip.

Steer clear of slippery sardines, among other things (Photo by Laura Durant)

It’s been several days since I saw the play, being performed at Phoenix Theatre through Sept 19 (extended from Sept 12 due to ‘popular demand and critical acclaim’). But I still find myself leafing through the actual program — where I’m learning all sorts of things about our local talent.

Leann Dearing (Brooke) and her husband Matthew are acting instructors with Dearing Acting Studio. Mike Lawler (Selsdon) is a member of Phoenix Theatre’s “Partners That Heal” program. Maren Maclean (Belinda) has extensive Shakespeare experience (including several seasons as education outreach director for Southwest Shakespeare Company) — which I’m convinced is the best training ground for the craft of comedy.

Gail Wolfenden-Steib (costume designer) operates Rukshana Raks!, a custom dancewear business specializing in belly dance costumes for both cabaret and tribal dance styles. Katie McNamara (properties designer) has worked as a prop artisan for the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz and others.

Matthew Wiener (director) holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Michael J. Eddy (production manager/lighting designer) sits on the board of Scorpius Dance Theatre (which presents “A Vampire Tale” to sold out crowds each Halloween season). Pasha W. Yamotahari (assistant director and more) holds a journalism degree from the Cronkite School at ASU and has earned dramaturge and critic awards from the presitigious Kennedy Center.

Beware of doors that fly open or slam shut (Photo by Laura Durant)

Despite the farcical nature of the fare, I came away from it asking myself a rather serious question. Might I want to be a dramatuge when I grow up? Thankfully, I still have time to decide.

In the meantime, being an avid supporter of the Valley’s arts scene is a mighty fine gig.


Note: Mention the word “sardines” when ordering your tickets to enjoy a $5 savings while the offer lasts.

Coming up: Lynn and Liz encounter a frog and a toad a la Childsplay in Tempe; “Music Man” (with Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre) meets the Musical Instrument Museum; Making magic happen

Photos (from the top): Joseph Kremer;  Mike Lawler, Joseph Kremer, Christopher Williams, Maren Maclean, Cathy Dresbach; Christopher Williams, Leeann Dearing; Christopher Williams, Cathy Dresbach; Joseph Kremer, Cathy Dresbach, Robert Kolby Harper, Leeann Dearing (counter-clockwise from top left). All photos by Laura Durant of Durant Communications.

Art at the heart of healing

While many of us were gathering around the menorah or singing Christmas carols, some Arizona families sat bedside waiting and watching for hospitalized children to heal. It got me wondering what the role of the arts might be in the healing process. Did you know there are actually studies showing the health benefits of laughter? Maybe I should just take to the pediatric hospitals with my stick figure drawings and see if I can spread some cheer.

Happily, I got some better ideas while brainstorming with kids from the cast of Oliver! Saturday was my last day to wrangle (watch the kids when they’re not on stage), and they were gracious enough to help me with ideas for art projects children can do in the hospital. All agreed art projects are a great way to pass the time when you’re stuck at home sick or in the hospital for a spell.

Art projects are especially handy to have around when your child might be anxious waiting for a doctor to do his or her rounds, and when young friends or family members come to visit. Having materials to craft something wonderful together can ease that awkward silence that comes when we don’t know what to say to loved ones experiencing pain or suffering.

Pediatric specialists like Banner Health Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa and Phoenix Children’s Hospital already know that art is at the heart of healing. Their child life specialists work with children in several ways to assure they feel more comfortable with medical procedures and feel less stress while hospitalized and away from home, school and friends.

Child life specialists work with children both bedside and in hospital playrooms to assure that art is part of the healing process, according to Erin Sinnema, MSC, CCLS, certified child life specialist with Cardon Children’s Medical Center. The center also features a variety of support programs including humor therapy and music therapy. Especially for children, the expressive arts truly are at the heart of healing.

Sinnema says the center provides standard art materials like crayons, markers, paint and paper for many reasons. Because art is a universal language, it builds bridges between anxious patients and professionals who enter their world bearing familiar art materials.

A child who is used to drawing at home or in school will take comfort in being able to continue a familiar activity while isolated from familiar surroundings, reflects Sinnema. He or she may also feel a sense of satisfaction at being able to ‘give back’ by creating artwork for others. Most importantly, perhaps, art helps children express their feelings about the experience of being sick and separated from family and friends.

Child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital note that art is also an important resource for siblings of sick children. Brothers and sisters are welcome to send in artwork or photos to be displayed in their sibling’s hospital room, and sibs are also welcome to visit the child life playrooms (when healthy and accompanied by an adult).  Pediatric specialists recognize the role of the arts in treating the whole child and the whole family, and see firsthand the impact of art on health and hope.

If finding appropriate art materials for a hospitalized child or teen just isn’t your forte, plenty of folks—including the hospital’s child life specialists and your child’s teacher/s—can offer suggestions. Sometimes the simplest way to go is an art kit available from the hospital gift shop, or local businesses like bookstores, art supply stores or craft stores.

Many art museums—including the Phoenix Art Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and others—have gift shops featuring kid-friendly arts and crafts projects. So do many of the Valley’s family-friendly destinations, such as the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Zoo.

Creativity for Kids and Klutz are great online resources if you can’t get out for supplies.

A few guidelines as you’re making your selections…

Think neater rather than messier (a principle you don’t need to worry about at home). Think easy to transport, clean up after and store. Maybe you have a fun tote or plastic crate that can become the designated crafts center for your hospitalized child—something he or she knows will always be full of fun surprises. Think frugal. You’d be amazed what a child can do with simple and inexpensive materials like pipe cleaners or felt and a pair of scissors.

Consider not only your budget, but also your child’s age, motor skills and energy level. Your child’s own preferences, safety considerations and any hospital rules about what parents and other visitors can bring for patients should also influence what you choose.

Consider magazines like American Girl and FamilyFun that offer ideas, directions and/or templates for kid-friendly arts and crafts projects. If you’re not feeling particularly gifted in the arts, you can turn to online resources for project ideas and directions. When in doubt, give a simple sketch book with special pencils or pens. (This idea was especially popular among the boys in the Oliver! cast.)

At the bottom of this post you’ll find just a portion of the incredible list of ideas shared by girls from the Oliver! cast yesterday (the first time I wrangled, I interviewed more boys than girls, so this will balance the scales). I’ll see them later today for strike (theater term loosely translated as tearing a show down after that final performance), so I may have more ideas to add to the list this evening (or even tomorrow).

I’ll also share a few of our own family favorites (think thumbprints, multicolor ink pads and a Sharpie pen)–but first I’m off to whip up some goodies for the post-strike pot luck…

Until then, happy doodling!


*Fun hospital art projects…

  • Drawing supplies: Sketch pads, paper, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, erasers, pencil sharpeners and “how to” drawing books (how to draw animals, etc.)
  • Scrapbook making supplies: Blank scrapbook, miniature photo album or wire-bound unlined index cards with assorted papers, scissors, markers, glue sticks, etc. (fun scrapbook themes include family, friends, pets, dreams for the future)
  • Fiber arts: Yarn for making yarn dolls, embroidery floss for making friendship bracelets, felt for making finger puppets, crochet/knitting needles with yarn for making a blanket to sleep with or put around a favorite stuffed animal
  • Bookmark supplies: Bookmark templates for needlepoint with embroidery floss and needle or card stock bookmarks with stickers, stamped art, etc.
  • Button art: Buttons with wire or fishing line for making bracelets or flexible dolls
  • Card creations: Large unlined index cards or folded card stock with stickers and other embellishments to make thank you cards for hospital staff, friends who bring gifts, fellow patients, etc.
  • Collage art: Heavy cardstock or flat canvas with glue or glue stick for attaching magazine cut outs, get well cards, torn pieces of tissue paper, etc. (hole punch at top and add yarn or ribbon to hang up in hospital room)
  • Book-making supplies: Paper or card stock your child can staple into booklet form after writing a tall tale, a playful poem, etc.
  • Magnetic toys: Flat screens with magnets you manipulate into various designs or 3-D magnetic toys for creating a myriad of unique sculptures
  • Puppetry: Socks, paper lunch sacks or tall envelopes with fun face-making supplies like googly eyes, pom poms, felt, foam pieces, etc.
  • Paper crafts: Origami paper (plain or with designs such as animal prints) with instruction booklet for paper folding or paper cutting (kirigami); Roll of gift wrap for making long paper doll chains
  • Pom pom people: Furry little pom poms with glue, googly eyes and foam pieces for making people or animal faces with feet (foam core pieces make great people and animals too)
  • Hanging art: Yarn or fishing line for hanging art or mobiles (think snowflakes, butterflies, sports equipment, cars and trucks, etc. (thick pipe cleaners or thin hangers make handy mobile frames)
  • Puzzle art: Blank puzzle with markers for coloring custom design or heavy card stock with markers and scissors for drawing and cutting out a one-of-a-kind puzzle
  • Stuff to fluff: Felt, embroidery floss and stuffing for making teddy bears; Napkins or fabric squares, stuffing and needle/thread for making special hospital pillow; Soft cloth with ribbon and scented beads or potpourri for a refreshing sachet or compress

*Special thanks to Adele, Alex, Barrette and Madeleine and all the other Oliver! cast members who contributed ideas to this list of art projects–you’re one bright and creative bunch! Their best ideas were sentimental ones that might be easiest to accomplish with kits–dreamcatchers for capturing wishes and worry dolls for releasing fears.

Coming soon: Creating an art-friendly home

Habitat for Humanity enlists Little House cast

“I’m headed out to the build,” I hollered to my family as I ran out the door Thursday morning. The last time I heard that line, it was uttered by a serial killer on the Showtime television series Dexter. You don’t want to know what ends up in the “Trinity Killer’s” concrete. I felt perfectly safe since the concrete portion of this job looked to be complete, and the most prevalent material was the “blue stuff” making up the still-in-progress walls.

I had a hard time finding the place I was looking for—a home lot where cast members of the musical Little House on the Prairie, playing now at ASU Gammage as part of the 2009/2010 Broadway Across America series, were assisting Habitat for Humanity folks with building a home for a Phoenix family. But as I drove by the site, windows down, and radio blasting a South Pacific tune—someone recognized me.

I walked up to the build, past a chain link fence with a sign that read “Lot #16”—and indicated that its sponsor is Bank of America. Every build on the block had a similar sign, but with its own lot number and sponsor. Other sponsors included the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, the University of Phoenix, UPS Freight and more.

I mention this because I always make time to review the sponsors listed in programs for the performances I attend. I wonder if they know how much I appreciate their support for the arts, that I go out of my way to give them business, that I wish I’d followed through more often on my plans to send a thank you note or make a thank you call.

I didn’t get to see Melissa Gilbert, who plays the role of Ma in the musical, in her hardhat—but I did get to don one of my own. It brought back memories of the construction of Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I’ll bet they have plenty of “blue stuff” in their walls too.

My own “ma”—among others—might be mystified by my lack of finesse for naming building materials. Not to worry, I am able to fathom more than the color when choosing a new car—something that happens every few years during the holiday season when I manage to kill a vehicle racing from rehearsals and shows to recitals and volunteer gigs.

My mother was a nurse, an R.N., who earned a master’s degree in public administration while raising me single-handedly in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California. She developed substance abuse treatment programs for native populations in northern Alaska. I was always so impressed to see pictures of her in her heavy parka with a fur-rimmed hood about to board one of those tiny planes that land and take-off from the water.

My mom knew her way around a tool box and a great deal more, flipping houses for extra income before anyone thought of divine designing or trading spaces. When she was younger, she once told me, women just didn’t go into construction. Her parents would have been mortified.

So she learned to be content with her garage workshop filled with the finest in hand and power tools. You never had to wonder what kind of gift certificate to get for my mom’s birthday. And I never had to go far to explore a variety of visual arts forms. Our garage was project central for weaving rugs, making sterling and turquoise jewelry and more.

Maybe that’s where I first felt the power of the arts to connect people, to bridge distances and to expand my horizons. I discovered that the arts are fun and fulfilling. And I got a glimpse of the person behind my mom, a privilege too few children enjoy before losing a loved one.

The Habitat for Humanity build was a giant canvas of hammers, levels and saws. Despite my mother’s attempts to teach me her craft, I’ve never been gifted in this area. I didn’t really feel at home on the site until I saw a roll of chicken wire. Aha, I thought, this is something I know how to use—for gardening, and for constructing the innards of some theater set pieces.

On this crisp and sunny Phoenix morning, Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers were joined by touring Broadway cast members—a cause they have supported in other cities as well. You have only to learn of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the wildly successful industry-based non-profit that does AIDS fundraising and grant-making, to know that theater folk have long loved a good cause.

But love is never enough. Action must follow—as it did at today’s Little House build. But why the Habitat for Humanity project, with so many worthy causes in our Valley of the Sun? Because, shares the cast, home is what the musical Little House on the Prairie is all about.

I have tickets to see the show at ASU Gammage this weekend—in addition to watching my daughter offer an amusing portrayal of a gin-guzzling wench (not her official role) in Greasepaint Youtheatre’s Oliver! I hope they’ll be taking voluntary donations after the show so anyone with an interest can join the Little House cast in supporting Habitat for Humanity. I love these types of opportunities to give back because they allow me to do good works while enjoying the things I love most. (My girls do too–when I took them to see Springsteen earlier this year, the food bank folks seemed charmed by the fact that they’d drop money in every single donation bin each and every time they passed it!)

When the Broadway Across America production of Rent came to ASU Gammage a while back, folks had the opportunity to take home autographed Rent souvenirs (Playbills, posters, etc.) with certain donation levels. No pressure involved—ever. But the opportunity is there. I spotted a little something for Lizabeth at the recent Arizona Thespian Festival, which featured a sale of Broadway memorabilia to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I get the double joy of treating her to a special holiday gift and supporting a cause I believe in.

I remember learning of Habitat for Humanity many years ago, thanks to the involvement of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter. Come to think of it, they’ve introduced me to many a good cause—including the Carter Center in Atlanta, which houses a renowned mental health program dedicated to policy goals such as reducing stigma, raising awareness, improving prevention and achieving health care equity.

I’m certain I’ll fall in love with Little House on the Prairie when I see it this weekend. But it’ll be more than the heartwarming story, charming dance numbers and moving dialogue—it’ll also be a renewed appreciation for the role of theater and theater folk in promoting social justice.

I love them for that…


Coming up: The Southwest Shakespeare Company, Holiday art book selection

Finding art in unexpected places…

Reflecting on the artwork of Benjamin Saar, displayed at Childsplay’s “Bear Stage” event Friday evening, I was reminded of just how powerful the arts can be for children and families living with sudden or chronic illness.

I recall the many times my children have been to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the way every room and corridor has greeted us with kid-friendly (and usually kid-created) artwork. Sometimes art can be found in unexpected places. (The wisest among us, I suspect, recognize art in everything.)

David Saar, Benjamin’s father, wrote a play titled “The Yellow Boat,” which explores both the everyday joys and sorrows of childhood and the unique challenges their family faced living with hemophilia and the HIV infection Benjamin contracted from a tainted transfusion (which led, in 1987, to his death at age 8 of AIDS-related complications).

The play’s central figures include a hospital child life specialist named Joy, who reawakens the artistic voice Benjamin nearly lost amidst sterile hospital experiences of white walls and white lab coats. Today you’ll find child life programs in many pediatric hospitals across the country, including Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital help patients and families cope with fear, anxiety, and separation from home and school while they’re getting treatment. Child life specialists use art, crafts, music and other activities to help patients, parents, siblings and other family members learn about medical procedures as well as coping strategies.

Walk by any patient room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and you’ll see further evidence of their appreciation for art’s role in health and healing. Crayon covered coloring book pages and bright marker drawings hang outside patient rooms. Patient friends and family members are welcome to send in photos and drawings for patients to display inside their room—adding a cheerful personal touch to the space.

When you’re hospital bound and bedside with a critically or chronically ill child, you appreciate these things all the more. We all want the best medical care for our children, but we also want opportunities to nurture their psychosocial and emotional needs. And when we’re at home with our little ones tucked safely into bed, we should remember the children and families who aren’t so fortunate.

Consider infusing a wee bit of art into the lives of those you love with holiday cards created by young artists to support a cause you love. Many health advocacy organizations create and sell them (check with the local chapter of your favorite charity to see what they offer). Cards featuring the artwork of Benjamin Saar are available from the Arizona Hemophilia Association.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital has a special “Art Project” that benefits its Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. You can find their “Handprints of Hope” cards online at www.pchkidsart.com. (Yes—do your cards now—you’ll have more time for finger painting and storytelling when you really need it during this fast-paced season!)

If you haven’t been to the emergency room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital yet, you can still make your first trip to the hospital a joyous one. (I say “yet” because most of us get to an E.R. with our children sooner or later—whether it’s a sports injury, an accidental hand in a slamming car door or a scary over-the-top fever.)

Head over some day and stroll the halls. The quality and quantity of their child-generated artwork (much of it 2- and 3-dimensional) is really quite extraordinary. You’ll enjoy a free and unexpected arts adventure and have a positive experience to refer back to if you ever find yourself there for health-related reasons. (And you’ll get lots of new ideas for your own at-home art projects—something you’ll need as the holiday season and school breaks roll around.)

I typically punctuate my strolls with a fresh-grilled burger from the hospital cafeteria, but that’s just me. I’m always looking for art in unexpected places…


Coming soon: More unexpected places to enjoy art with your child (If you have a place to suggest, please share with fellow parents by commenting on this blog—thanks!)

Fine print: Check with the hospital online or by phone before you go in case there are temporary visitor restrictions in place due to RSV, H1N1 or other conditions.