Hot Air Balloons!

Many, many dots of hot glue and several rolls of mounting tape later… We have finally finished our collaborative mural!

This is the 2013 edition of our collaborative project that the Tracy’s Kids art therapists have been doing with other art therapists at Children’s National Medical Center since 2010. Children from all over the hospital contributed to this beautiful project, and it’s wonderful to get to see their individual personalities shining through in little details throughout the image. These painted hot air balloons were inspired by the giant hot air balloons that hang in Children’s National’s main atrium.

Not only are those fantastic sculptures a fun and whimsical addition for the kids who visit Children’s National, but they are a great way to help provide directions throughout the hospital for parents!

A Follow-up to the Flamingo

Several weeks ago, we wrote a blog post about a wonderful young artist who makes some fantastic creations during her time in the art therapy room. In June, we told you about a cardboard tube flamingo. Now, we would like to share one of her most recent creations – a coordinated costume for her pet (stuffed) dog.

This young lady always seems to come into the art room with a plan. She doesn’t usually share her thoughts, so we get to enjoy watching her creation come together with each sequin, dot of paint or piece of tape she adds. Of course, we usually have some idea in our heads of what she might be making… But we never want to underestimate her creativity. This six-year-old frequently reminds us of how amazingly resourceful children can be – especially those who face the challenge of cancer treatment.

What we thought was going to be a pretty traditional picture of a sunflower quickly morphed into a costume. And not just any costume… but one that completely coordinated with the artist’s outfit of the day!

She dressed her dog and “walked” him around the art room with pride!

RylieR&Oscar

Creative Arts Therapies Week!

This week is Creative Arts Therapies Week, which recognizes all of the amazing creative arts therapies (art, music, dance and drama)!  In the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National Medical Center, we celebrated our fantastic art therapists and our music therapist by collaborating on a hospital-wide art project AND hosting a creative art therapies booth for patients and families!

Tracy’s Kids art therapists facilitated a hospital-wide collaborative mural that has become a tradition over the past several years to recognize and celebrate all of the Creative Arts Therapies at Children’s National. Canvases are painted by children, teenagers and young adults throughout the hospital– each contributing their artwork to be part of a much bigger picture.  Here are just a few of the pieces of the mural…

CNMCMuralPieces

Patients, family members and staff are all excitedly awaiting the “unveiling” – when all of the mural’s pieces are put together and the completed piece finally appears in one of our hallways. We’ll be sure to share it with all of you on the Tracy’s Kids blog once the mural is finished!

The Tracy’s Kids art therapists also hosted a creative arts therapy booth in the Children’s National Medical Center cafeteria. We had the opportunity to work with patients and families that we would normally never meet and to introduce them to art therapy!

Stay tuned to see our mural as it’s completed!

Message in a Bottle (Actually, Under a Bottle Cap)

Most everyone reading this has (at some point or another) consumed a beverage whose brilliant marketing campaign includes having a witty saying or bizarre fact printed on the underside of the bottle cap.  Before you even take a sip, you feel compelled turn over the cap and read the message… It is simply irresistible.

Several months ago, fate missed me by a few feet and gave a bottle of tea (obviously meant for me) to one of my dear friends. That bottle cap carried this message…

Art therapist, more fun than doctor.

More Fun Than Doctor

A phrase that art therapists hear time and time again is, “your job looks like SO MUCH FUN!”  And I cannot argue with that – We really do get to have a lot of fun, throwing paint and sand and glitter around the art therapy room. But art therapy is so much more. We work very hard, trying to support patients and their families through a very challenging time in their lives. Sometimes, our most difficult task of the day is helping kids be able to have fun, even while they are in the hospital. Seeing children (who had been quiet and withdrawn earlier in their hospitalizations) get back to JUST HAVING FUN is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work.

Every day we go to work, we get to have some of the most meaningful interactions imaginable. We truly do have the very best jobs in the world. And we do have a lot of fun.

My thanks to Jackie Verrecchia, the author of this wonderful six-word memoir.

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Throughout the year, the Tracy’s Kids art therapists help children decorate their hospital rooms with handmade creations, trying to make a foreign place feel a little bit more like home. Not surprisingly, these decorations tend to become even more festive and prolific during the holidays!

Even after an otherwise very cranky afternoon, one little boy quickly agreed that he wanted to have a white Christmas in his room! Soon, sticker snowflakes sparkled in his window and paper snowflakes floated down from his ceiling. In about twenty minutes, his room and his mood had completely changed. He has been asking for more snowflakes almost every time we see him. A full blown blizzard may be coming in the near future!

Twisted Paper Snowflakes

For the children who have to stay in the hospital over the holidays, a few pieces of paper and appropriately applied tape can make a huge difference. Even when it is fifty degrees and rainy outside, it can be snowing inside Children’s National Medical Center.

Below is a link to directions on how you can make your own twisty paper snowflakes. They can be made in any size and with any color paper. We hope you enjoy trying these on your own, and you can see how quickly any ordinary room can become a real winter wonderland!http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-3D-Paper-Snowflake 

Happy Holidays from Tracy’s Kids at Children’s National Medical Center!!!

Happy Thanks-Sibling!!!

While it is not uncommon to see various artistic depictions of turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Tracy’s Kids Art Therapy team at Children’s National Medical Center hosted to a very special GIANT turkey.

Patients and staff members of all ages decorated feathers, writing out WONDERFUL reasons why they are so thankful for their siblings. Things like… 

“Thank you for ALWAYS, ALWAYS making me laugh!”

“I love playing Candyland with you. It’s so fun!”

“When I need him, he’s good to me.”

“My little sister is a ROCKSTAR!”

The brothers and sisters of patients undergoing treatment for cancers and blood disorders experience their own unique challenges in dealing with the stresses and changes in daily life. “Happy Thanks-Sibling” was an opportunity to highlight the amazing strength of siblings and to recognize the important things they do to support their brothers and sisters undergoing treatment. This wonderful project was made possible by one family’s generous dedication to the support of siblings, after one of their children was the bone marrow donor for her younger sister.

Sparkles & Sprinkles

Glitter… that rather playful material that tends to defy any traditional cleaning methods and frequently manages to sneak itself into places where it does not belong – including my purse, my shoes and sometimes even my hair. Anyone who has children or who works with children knows the dangers of introducing the sparkly substance into any kind of art project – even the best laid plans typically end up covered in a sticky shine or hidden beneath a heaping pile of glitter.

This is no childhood obsession – glitter can be just as enticing for adults, as evidenced by the amount of sparkle habitually incorporated into numerous holiday decorations and in the (somewhat) secretive smiles of parents as they help their children add a little “shimmer” to their artwork.

So, what’s an art therapist to do when someone asks (oh, so innocently) for “glitter,” “sparkles,” or (the most popular among toddlers) “sprinkles, please…”

Just watch a child’s face light up with pure joy as she enthusiastically shakes copious amounts of glitter onto a miniscule dot of glue… With that little extra sparkle, she has created something perfect and beautiful that she will proudly show off to any adult within earshot (and even beyond). In that fleeting moment, in the art therapy room, her feeling of overwhelming success and happiness make all of the sweeping totally worth it.

Dress-up for Grownups

For many of our children, Halloween is a festive and exciting time of year – one that can be especially disheartening for those spending it in the hospital. For some of these kids, the typical childhood “trick or treating” from door to door fades into a dream rather than a sugary reality. So, we make an extra special effort to transform the hospital into something extra special for the holiday – including fun decorations, a fantastic party sponsored by Hope for Henry and staff members who dress up in costumes hoping to get a good laugh out of the kids.

So, during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, I set to work creating my Halloween alter-ego…

Elizabeth & Katharine in their Halloween Headgear

It was so much fun putting my costume together – adding each detail and imagining the kids’ reactions. With my pile of felt and my hot glue gun (and a few mild burns), I felt like a little kid again. As art therapists, we typically spend a lot of our time and energy encouraging the children and teenagers we work with to find new ways to express themselves through the act of creating. It is especially wonderful (though not rare) when the children drive us to be more creative.

Reliving the simple joys of just “being a kid” during the rainy days of the hurricane also reinforced the importance of helping our patients to more fully experience their childhoods, especially when they are in the hospital. Each one of the children and adolescents we are privileged to work with is so much more than a diagnosis and a medical record number. The art therapists with Tracy’s Kids get to help children expand the world of the hospital and to cope more effectively through art making, a powerful part of childhood for so many.

Another Fateful Journey

While every art therapist has a unique story as to how he or she became interested in the field, there always seems to be at least one similarity – everyone seems to have that seemingly fateful moment or some kind of epiphany that leads to the realization that art therapy embodies two passions into a real job!

In undergraduate school, I experienced that typical identity crisis approaching adulthood, trying to decide who I was going to be and what I was going to do with my life… I found myself regularly glaring at the college form that was going to (at least in my mind) determine my future. I needed to “officially” declare my major… and I had to choose between psychology and studio art. They seemed to be such different fields, but I truly loved them both and could not imagine finding personal satisfaction in a career that focused on only one.

Then, I found my path to art therapy – I majored in studio art and essentially double majored in psychology, perfectly combining my two passions to prepare myself for graduate school.

My interview at the graduate art therapy program at the George Washington University (GW) provided me with another fateful opportunity. I had always wanted to do something in pediatric oncology – a combination of additional interests, children and healthcare. But I knew there was absolutely no way that I would ever have a job providing art therapy in a pediatric oncology setting…

Until I met a graduate student interning at Tracy’s Kids during my interview at GW – I finally knew that my dream job existed and felt that I had truly found my place. I was lucky enough to have my second year graduate school internship with Tracy’s Kids at Children’s National Medical Center. I was then fortunate enough to be able to transition from student intern to full-time employee. It has been a truly wonderful experience that completely validated my fateful journey to the dream job that I could not have ever imagined would actually exist. And now, I get to do something amazing every, single day.

A Bear & A Healing Garden

Over the past two years, the Tracy’s Kids art therapists in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders have collaborated with other art therapists at Children’s National Medical Center to create two large murals which now hang prominently in our hallways – bringing the children and teenagers who worked on the murals a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

The art therapists first pieced together blank canvases of various sizes and drew the basic outline of the mural image. The canvases were then taken apart again, so that patients and siblings all over the hospital were each given their own piece of the mural. Without knowing what the final image would be, children of all ages (and with all different kinds of diagnoses) painted, glued and collaged the canvases.

Collaborative Mural of A Healing Garden

Each canvas stands alone as a beautiful artwork, but once the individual pieces were put back together, the results were even more amazing. Our first mural depicts Dr. Bear, the mascot of Children’s National Medical Center, and the most recent mural shows our “Healing Garden.” Once each mural was displayed, patients and siblings marveled at how their small piece of artwork contributed to the larger mural. The murals created a great sense of community – even though many of the patient-artists had never met, they became more aware of other children who share their experience in the hospital by collaborating in this project.