Pleasing Picture: Art Cart Draws Praise from Patients

Story and photo by Heather Marcoux

Most people don’t associate a hospital stay with works of art, but for Lucy Wickens, 53, a hospital room inspired her creativity.

Thanks to the volunteer-run Art Cart program at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC), Wickens was able to tap into her artistic side while her body recovered from complications of diabetes.

ns-art-cart“Making art just makes me feel happy,” Wickens explains from her bed, surrounded by coloured pencils, paints and pastels. “You have nothing to do here, but when they started coming around with the Art Cart, it helped out so much.”

The Art Lending Cart program at RDRHC began in 2006 as a travelling warehouse of paintings and prints donated by the Red Deer Public Library. Volunteers help patients choose from a catalogue of available art, and the patients get to pick which picture will be hung in their hospital room. The program is run and funded through Volunteer Resources and any patient can have the cart visit them.

The second phase of the Art Cart program is more interactive, and began last October after it was spearheaded by volunteers Teena Dickerson and Teresa Barrett.

“I had the idea for the art cart program as part of my master’s program at the University of Calgary,” Dickerson says. “I was doing Creative Studies and was working on the healing properties of art when I had the idea that we could give the kits to patients here to help them pass the time.”

Together, Dickerson and Barrett stocked a new Art Cart with kits patients can use to distract themselves during their time in the hospital. The kits include supplies to create paint-by-numbers masterpieces, dream-catchers, or personalized mugs, keychains and jewelry boxes. There’s something for everyone, no matter what their skill level.

Approximately five to six kits are delivered to patients on a weekly basis.

“These are self-contained kits that have all of the tools, so that they can make a craft or paint something and have something to keep,” says Barrett, who first met Wickens during a visit to her room with the wall-art catalogue. “She seemed to have a lot of interest in the pictures we were hanging on the walls,” adds Barrett, who then introduced Wickens to the Art Cart kits.

“When they said they had the art kits, I said I’d like to try,” says Wickens, who has since amassed a collection of her own art supplies thanks to family members and other visitors.

“The first week we gave her a kit, and then the next week she had bought her own markers,” says Dickerson, who watched Wickens’ art supply collection grow over the course of her hospital stay.

“Eventually, she had a full art studio set up when I went into her room.

“I couldn’t believe it.”

Some art supplies were brought to Wickens by youth volunteer, Fatima Amanullah.

“Fatima bought me a bunch of different coloured crayons and papers to draw on,” says Wickens, who appreciates the extra efforts of the 16-year-old volunteer. “I love colouring and I’m very crafty. It has helped me keep busy and stay positive.”