From Kidney to Bird: A Sibling’s Art Experience

As school approaches, I find myself reflecting back on the summer and all the patients and their siblings who joined us at the art table each day.  Summer is sometimes the only time when siblings are able to come along to their brother or sister’s medical appointments and many siblings look forward to the opportunity to make art.

Last week a patient who had undergone surgery to have one of her kidneys removed came to the clinic for a check- up. She brought her brother with her and they both spent the morning playing with model magic (a kind of squishy dough similar to play-dough). Each time the sister went back for her medical treatment her brother would start to mold and color his model magic to resemble various body parts.

Coloring the Model Magic

Coloring the Model Magic

At first the model magic was colored and flatted to look like skin, which he playfully flopped onto his arm. A few minutes later the skin was colored and balled up to resemble a little heart. The little ball was then colored blue, resulting in a grayish blob he decided looked like a liver. After more marker was added the model magic started to take on the form of a little pink bean.  He spent a while perfecting the tiny form until he finally identified it as a kidney. As he held the kidney in his hands he talked about how worried he was about his sister and how scared he felt when she had undergone surgery.  He talked about how he felt different from his sister because he didn’t have anything wrong with his body.

Creating the kidney

Creating the kidney

After sharing his feelings he then decided that he wanted to make a gift for his sister and he morphed the little kidney into a bird.

bird for his sister

bird for his sister

This is a good example of why sibling participation in art therapy is so important. At the art table siblings are given a voice to express their own feelings, concerns and/or misconceptions of their brother or sister’s medical condition.  Being able to make a gift or special token also provides siblings with a meaningful way to contribute to their sibling’s recovery process.

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

Tie-Dye Summer Fun!

TIEDYE

Though tie-dye was a summer staple for me as a kid at summer camp, many of the patients and their families that I work with in the clinic had never done a tie-dye project! It was fun to introduce the kids to this colorful activity, and what I enjoyed most was the “happy accident” quality of this kind of art work. It requires little technical skill, but always turns out interesting and beautiful. There’s a surprise element and delayed gratification because you have to wait for a long time to see the end result, which makes it different from other art experiences to which the kids are accustomed.
This can be a pretty messy project, so preparation is key. Luckily, there is a lot of protective gear in an oncology clinic and the kids enjoyed using the medical supplies for artistic purposes. Dressed from head-to-toe in contact isolation gowns (usually worn by staff when going into a room when a child has a contagious illness) and latex gloves (which are plentiful!), each child wrapped rubber bands around plain, white bandanas. I purchased a tie-dye kit with powdered die already in squirt bottles, so all that was needed was water. This made the project more contained than the tie-dye of my youth, which typically involved big buckets, if memory serves. We then wrapped up the bandanas in our handy “Biohazard” baggies to let the die set.
A day later, the kids got to take home a beautiful bandana – great for protecting bald heads in the Texas summer heat. Each one was so unique, and kids and staff really enjoyed getting to see the final project.

Summer Mosaic Project

As part of a summer project, two local high school students have been working hard with our kids over the last few weeks on a mosaic project. The finished work will be displayed (location to be announced) with the goal of educating the public about the benefits of art therapy. Both kids and parents have helped out this week, arranging hundreds of little glass tiles to create this beautiful piece of art. Kids were also invited to use clay to make their own mosaic tiles featuring whatever they wanted to include in the landscape. Their creations include flowers, leaping dolphins, a black widow spider, a leprechaun–and a “flying potato” (contributed by a very creative two year old!).

Here are some pictures of the work in progress: 

Our project leaders, Mave and Rachel

Our project leaders, Maeve and Rachel

Coming up with the idea

The landscape

The landscape

Drawing ideas

Clay objects created by the kids

Close up of clay creations

Close up of clay creations

Laying out the mosiac tiles

Laying out the mosaic tiles

Scribbling Siblings 2013

Hi! My name is Amanda Andrews and I’m the newest member of the Tracy’s Kids art therapy team at Children’s National Medical Center.  I’m an art therapy graduate of George Washington University, where I discovered my passion for working with oncology populations and in medical settings. I am here for the summer to work primarily with the siblings of the children who are here for treatment and appointments, but I also get to interact and make art with many of the patients themselves.
 
The siblings I work with get an opportunity to create their own art work at the art center in the waiting room – We like to call it “Scribblin’ Siblings”.  It’s a great place for them to share, create, and explore while they wait.
Since it’s summer and these kids are spending a lot of their time in a boring waiting room, I try to keep things fun! I’ve been working to create various, inviting themes each week to keep things interesting and to provide an environment that allows the kids to be themselves.
 
image
 
We’ve been working on projects like these:
 
Make your own giant shield
Creating superheroes with super powers
Make and fly paper airplanes
 
The very hungry caterpillar
catepillar string
   
Bones and X-Rays
xrays
 
Make your own turtle
turtle bowl
 
 
 
It’s been great getting to know the kids who are here each week, becoming the art table regulars. Some of them have even started teaching ME how to make things and showing me ideas that I can share with everyone else.
 
I’m looking forward to a fun and creative summer with these siblings!  
 

Watch Out for the T-Rex!!!

Today one of our young patients came in with a friend and the two of them spent the morning using the relaxation mats in our clinic to build an elaborate house complete with passageways, doors and a roof. For the patient, having his own space in the house that had a roof over it was particularly important. When the roof was on his house he didn’t want anyone to be able to see him. His mom and I worked to fulfill his need only to find moments later a “strong wind” had come through and knocked the house down! The strong wind quickly developed into a T-Rex that was determined to destroy everything in its path. The two kids giggled and jumped up and down in delight as they tumbled over the large mats. Once the T-Rex was gone we worked to rebuild the house until… (you guessed it!) another T-Rex came along to knock the whole thing down again!

IMG_8098

The theme of creation and destruction is one that we sometimes see with kids. As adults, we usually view creation as a linear process- we come up with an idea, work to create it and hope that in the process and after it is completed that it doesn’t fall apart. For some kids however, the creation process can be less linear and more circular with equal joy and importance on the creation as well as the destruction of the artwork. At times destroying something can be far more therapeutic than making it!

In this patient’s case, the creation of a place where he could hide and not be seen by anyone made him feel safe and protected, while the later destruction of the house allowed him to feel more in control and powerful. The process seemed to validate both of these feelings and help relieve his anxiety about the medical care he received today.

Kari Kant and Tracy’s Kids

A couple weeks ago American flags created by patients from the DC and Virginia Tracy’s Kids locations were featured in an art exhibit along side the work of artist, Kari Kant. The art show was a lot of fun and we were so happy for the opportunity to share the kids’ artwork!  Thank you again to Kari Kant and to everyone who came out to show their support!

Here are some pictures from the show: 

Tracy's Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Tracy’s Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

String quartet

String quartet

 

Hooray for Scribbles!

Young children like to experiment with paint. To a three or four-year old, mixing colors is scientific enquiry. What happens when you mix blue and yellow?  red and yellow?  red and green? all the colors together?–when you’re little it’s a revelation. Many small children perform these experiments over and over, trying out combinations until the paper is covered in what looks like a blackish blob.

Art and Science Converge

Art and Science Converge

Sometimes adults wonder if there is something wrong when a little one’s paintings turn to black. They see them start with beautiful bright colors and then come up with black-ish soup. Does all that black suggests depression? sadness? a lack of imagination? In most cases it is just the opposite. Creative exploration without judgment is important to cognitive development. Pretty is not always the point. Kids need to try out every imaginable combination for themselves, over and over, to understand how what they do influences what shows up on the paper. So next time your little person asks to paint, say yes–and turn them loose!

Flamingo!

During a recent visit to the clinic’s art room, a very creative six-year-old immediately began gathering materials – several giant paper towel rolls, some masking tape, and pink construction paper.  This young lady always has a very clear plan of what she wants to make in the art room, but this was obviously going to be an extra-special creation. 

Our young artist worked quietly and very intently at the art table, never looking up. Eventually, she gathered a few more materials, including orange and black paint, extra-large googly eyes and a bunch of pink feathers.  The art therapists waited in anticipation to see what she was going to create that morning.  A few helping hands, careful placement of tape and a couple of strategic scissor snips later…

Flamingo1

And we had a bright pink flamingo, with a smiling orange beak make its debut in the art room.  It is has been great fun to have our friend, the flamingo, sitting on our counter and watching over the creativity that happens in the art room everyday.