heart

Just sent out my application to Dustbowl Arts Market. I’m nervous.

In fact, I’m kind of freaking out about it. I had to fill out an application just to get in, for crying out loud. Granted, it was only one page long and the questions were pretty cut and dry–which is good, because the only artist’s statement I can come up with is “I paint whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.”

That probably wouldn’t fly too far. I just don’t think I could take that kind of rejection.

And I don’t even know what “juried show” means. I don’t actually care; I just really want to paint a bunch of awesome stuff and sell it all at once. Plus, hanging out in downtown Norman during a music festival all day could be really fun.

On to more art-related and probably way more interesting stuff, I had the opportunity last month to participate in a little charity dealio called “Art With a Heart”. From what I am to understand, there’s an art therapy program up in the OU Children’s Hospital where kids who are being treated for cancer go, and paint and color and whathaveyou, which is so great, because art is so healing. Anyway, someone got the idea to auction off some of their paintings to raise money for different things like helping families with medical bills etc etc, and viola! Art With a Heart. Real artists come in and help the kids with their paintings, which are then taken to be professionally framed–they end up bringing in serious cash at a silent auction. The concept is brilliant, but it’s not nearly as awesome as how they treat those kids on the big night–they get all dressed up, ride in limosines and walk the red carpet. They’re basically rockstarts for the evening.

I can think of nothing more special.

My friends Ty and Kayla have a son named Asher who is now cancer-free. He has participated in this thing for the last few years. When Kayla asked me if I’d like to help some of the kids paint, I jumped at the chance. I thought “How cool! Little kids casting their cares on canvasses! I love the smell of tempura paint in the morning! Maybe we can paint something amazing that’ll rake in the big bucks!”

I quickly changed my tune upon arrival at OU Children’s Hospital. As I got out of the car with Ty and Kayla and their kids, and we walked through the revolving doors into the big giant quiet building, I remembered what it was like to pace those halls, crying and drinking bad coffee. We were still in a hospital. Sure, it was new and beautiful, colorful even, but it was still a hospital–a place where very sick or hurt children go. And though Caleb and I only spent a fraction of a fraction of the time that Ty and Kayla had stayed there with Asher, I just got this overwhelming sense of dread, and I remembered leaving there with Merrick, thinking, “God, I hope I never have to come back.”

We took the elevator to the 1000th floor, and I felt a little better. The walls were a sunny yellow and there were cool fish tanks with Nemos, and toys galore, and shiny happy people working away in the art area. I was there to work with a girl named Harmony–Harmony, people–and she was currently a patient, and Kayla and I had to go get her from her room.

Kayla navigated those hallways like a pro. She knew her way through that rat’s maze inside and out, up and down and probably blindfolded. As we passed dim, quiet room after dim, quiet room, I willed myself “Don’t be awkward in front of the kid, don’t be awkward in front of the kid.”

I should have mentioned to Kayla how much I really hated hospitals and IVs and nurses and creepy hallways. And also, elevators. And sickness.

Harmony was a beautiful 7-year old girl, with some fierce little eyes and a sassy attitude. She sure enough was bald, and all wired up to a rolling IV–but it bothered me a lot more than it seemed to bother her. When it came to painting, she didn’t play. The people in charge left example pictures on our table, or suggestions, as they called them, but Harmony wasn’t having it. “I want to paint a monkey,” she said, and from the determination in her voice, I was surprised that a monkey didn’t obediently materialize itself onto the canvas right then and there.

Let me tell you something about the monkey Harmony had in mind. She had a stuffed monkey. She wore a monkey t-shirt, and she had been practicing drawing this monkey, over and over. She started in with confidence–drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing. Her hilarious family tried to give her advice but Harmony was just not interested. My job was easy–I sat back and let the girl do her thing, occasionally helping her with the rough sketch and mixing the right paint colors. I reminded her that if we needed to, we could paint over whatever she didn’t like–but Harmony had it under control. She got tired and/or bored (probably mostly bored) toward the end of the afternoon, so her mother and I finished up painting in the blank spots.

I had another 7-year-old girl sit at my table. Her name was Madison. I don’t think Madison was staying at the hospital. I don’t know if she was completely cancer-free. She had big brown eyes and a full head of hair and pink cheeks, and a little beauty mark right over her mouth.

She, too, ignored the suggestions and set to work on a painting of her new puppy. We sketched and erased, mixed paints, and finally produced a super-girly portrait of a lapdog.

The afternoon went by fast. My buddy Asher was off painting a caterpillar and working on a collage. I forgot about bare heads and I forgot that we were in a hospital. These kids were regular little kids–funny, stubborn, creative, and antsy. I couldn’t believe that at one point they were all being treated for cancer. It’s hard for me to picture little Asher being that sick.

It’s not so hard for me to picture the stress and the worry of their parents.

So for those of you in Oklahoma City, next Saturday night at 6:00, at OU Children’s Hospital, there’s Art With a Heart. Tickets are $30 a piece and believe me when I say it goes toward a good cause. Support a budding artist at the social event of the year. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

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About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested. View all posts by Toni

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