Felting- A Universal Language

As the snow fell outside the hospital today our patients were busy creating colorful, snuggly felted scarves.



One little boy from Afghanistan particularly enjoyed the felting process. As he lay the bright red wool onto the table he smiled and called to his mom to come look at what he was creating. As his mom watched, he pulled little tufts of the soft material apart and carefully laid them on top of one another. His mom enjoyed watching the process, she shared that back home, in Afghanistan, they use the same felting process to make beautiful carpets.



afghan rug


This is the wonderful nature of art- the creation process and the materials are often a bridge between so many different cultures. Art, in this case, brought a little reminder of home to the clinic for this family.


At Tracy’s Kids 2013 was a really busy year. Here is a sampling of what we’ve been up to:

  • We began and ended the year with work on display at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St, NW, Washington, DC. Our current show is up through January 24, so there’s still time to take it in.
  • Our first ever music video “Tracy’s Kids Keep your Head Up!” went up on Youtube. (Still one of the most cheerful videos on Youtube!)
  • Art exhibit at Lombardi Cancer Center
  • Another successful Red Carpet Fundraiser in February
  • an entry in the Washington Post Magazine’s Peeps Diorama Contest that didn’t win, but made the Kids’ Post
  • a great story about us on the Voice of America
  • the launch of our Junior Monet art gift site
  • a summer mosaic mural project led by students at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School
  • creating American flag-themed art for a show with abstract painter Kari Kant
  • inpatient space renovations at Georgetown and Methodist San Antonio
  • two mentions on the news in San Antonio, TX
  • a comprehensive Program Evaluation by participants in all five programs
  • an art show at Life with Cancer Center
  • celebrating holidays with the kids at all the hospitals
  • creating “gingerbread men” decorations for soldiers in Afghanistan
  • leading art activities to support staff  in all our locations
  • creating art about the famous sights of  Washington and San Antonio for our Carroll Square show
  • and in one amazing week in December building and decorating Nationals Stadium out of gingerbread with help from players Ross Detwiler and Denard Span, hosting Santa’s visit to the kids at Georgetown/Lombardi Center, and opening our latest show of work by Tracy’s Kids at Carroll Square!!

Here’s a photo gallery of some of the year’s highlights:

  • Exam table paper transforms the inpatient unit hallway into an art studio.

    Exam table paper transforms the inpatient unit hallway into an art studio.


    Balloon Hat

    Balloon Hat

    TracysKids_2013[1] tape blog photo 4 Maya and Fairies IMG_8224 tape-imals4

    Tracy's Kids at Carroll Square 2012

    Tracy’s Kids at Carroll Square 2012


    Drawing ideas

    Drawing ideas

    image Flag process 5

    Tracy's Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

    Tracy’s Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

    RylieR&Oscar 20130516_120159 art_feb12 Kari Kant front Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.27.58 PM IMG_7993 closeup3 featured image

    David Cohen of Comcast/NBCUniversal, Marcelle Leahy, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Dave Camp and Matt Gerson

    David Cohen of Comcast/NBCUniversal, Marcelle Leahy, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Dave Camp and Matt Gerson

    Big heads on their way to the Red Carpet

    Big heads on their way to the Red Carpet

    alligator in a cage Picture1

We couldn’t do it without support from so many of you, so I want to take one final opportunity to say thank-you:

  •  to the  donors and supporters who make our work possible,
  • the hardworking and dedicated art therapists who bring healing, creativity and laughter to the hospitals every day,
  • the hospitals and healthcare teams who welcome us so warmly, and community partners like Hope for Henry, Growing Hope and Life with Cancer, Hemphill Fine Arts and Carroll Square
  • and most of all our  patients and their families–you bring your hearts, hands and energy to the art tables in all five locations.

Thank-you, thank-you, and Happy 2014 from everyone at Tracy’s Kids!

“Other duties as required. . .”

Santa arrivesSnowman

Cookie decorating

Balloon Hat

Balloon Hat

Yesterday Santa visited Lombardi, and the Tracy’s Kids team was instrumental in hosting a wonderful celebration for about 100 kids! The Open Studio program for the day was focused on cookie decorating, ornament-making, and a big winter-themed mural, and everybody had a great time. Here’s the clip that make the channel 7 news last night. Enjoy!


The Washington Nationals visit Georgetown!

Our friends at Hope for Henry invited the Washington Nationals to visit clinic today, and it was awesome! Ross Detwiler, Denard Span and Screech hung out with the kids, signed autographs, colored  Christmas ornaments and decorated cookies– and most of all helped the kids decorate a gingerbread version of Nationals Park (Tracy and Kate’s contribution to the event) that featured a custom-printed Jumbotron with all our logos on it! Thanks, everybody, for making it such a great time!

photo_1 photo_2 photo_3 photo_4

Dream Traps

Over the course of treatment some of our young patients have nightmares, which are often related to their treatment experiences. One little girl came into the clinic upset about a nightmare she had had the night before. During her medical exam she told her parents and the treatment team about her nightmare and how it continued to scare her. As art therapists often do with kids who have nightmares, she was encouraged her to draw the dream. Once she drew it we discussed ways that we could get rid of the dream picture (by throwing it out, crumpling it into a ball, etc). This allows the child to externalize their experience and literally get rid of a scary thing.

However, once the patient had drawn the nightmare she decided that instead of throwing it away a better way to deal with it was to trap it in a dream trap. Using colored paper and LOTS of tape, we assembled an elaborately constructed trap. The trap was so complex in design that once it was complete the little girl, looking triumphant, confidently said, “no bad dream is getting out of here!”

tape blog photo 4

Several weeks later this patient returned to the clinic in need of a new dream trap because the one she made last time “was completely full”. So we got to work on a new, even more elaborate and colorful dream trap. This little girl even inspired other patients at the art table to create their own dream traps as well.

Puppet Friends

Young children especially love mixed media work. Exploring shape and texture, and processes such as gluing, rolling, taping, and all different ways of putting things together is fascinating for the preschool set. Yesterday at the art table I had two three-year olds and a four-year old working together for much of the morning.

At one point I got out a box of 3-D things to glue on paper–colored macaroni, popsicle sticks and little wooden disks. One of the kids began drawing faces on the wooden disks–really charming first-faces. She named the parts as she drew them–eyes, nose, mouth (a silly mouth!), ears, hair–as young children often do. I started making a face on a disk too, and soon we were gluing the faces onto popsicle sticks and having all kinds of great little plays with our puppet friends.

The young artists loved that they got to use the popsicle sticks to dig lots of glue from the glue stick–and then we had to put masking tape over the whole thing to get it to stay together until it dried. (Waiting for the glue to dry was out of the question!)Using tape and glue makes a little person feel very grown up.

Friend Puppets Hide and Seek Puppets Setting up Puppets

I hope you will enjoy these pictures of our puppet friends. The one where you can’t see the faces is the puppets playing hide-and-seek–by putting an extra wooden disk over their faces.

Halloween at the Hospital

We wanted to share with you the photos we took today of all the GUH Pediatric Oncology team in their fairy and princess costumes. We also included some pictures of the hospital’s Halloween Parade. If you haven’t had a good laugh yet today, take a look!FairiesOffice Shot 2Office FairiesOffice Fairies 2NursesKing JuanHelkhaSimone and familySpiderman   Rasha and the gang Minnie Maya and Mom Maya and Fairies Little Fairy Lemar and fairies In motion IMG_8434  Hallway Dog Dino and mom Trick or Treat Superman

Scurrying Fairy

Tulle is Cool

Each year the clinic team at Georgetown dresses up together for Halloween- last year we were Washington Nationals baseball players, the year before that we were pirates. A few weeks ago one of our nurses excitedly suggested that this year the team dress up as fairies and princesses, which we all agreed would be a lot of fun!


Throughout October we have been busy preparing our costumes, which involve crafting fluffy tutus of tulle.  We’ve had a great time making tutus for the nurses, social workers, art therapists and techs—and some real princesses (our patients)—as well!

Finding small pockets of time in the late afternoon for the staff to get together and work on our costumes was a fun way to de-stress and share in a creative process with one another. Some of our staff excitedly created elaborate costumes of tulle fashioned after famous fairies. Others created their own, unique characters.  Some even made tulle accessories, including headbands, capes, wings and wrist cuffs!

Crafting our tutus

Crafting our tutus

The king making his scepter

The king making his scepter

 Tulle tutus are pretty simple to make, which made for a great group project. We used tutorial blogs online to gather inspiration and get some ideas before starting. Here is a tutorial that was especially helpful:


Piles of candy colored tutus are now all over the clinic and we can’t wait to wear them this Thursday!  Stay tuned for more pictures!

The tutus!

The tutus!

Painting Brothers

One of the most fun things we see at the clinic is young children just beginning to explore art. The other day a young patient and his little brother came to the clinic and took over both sides of the double easel. They were excited to try out different color combinations– naming each new color they had made.Painting Little Brother

This is the part of art therapy that intersects with art education–kids need to play around with color and paint to help them understand visual language. But at the cancer clinic there’s another layer of meaning–kids who come here have to deal with lots of scary and stressful stuff–but working in the open studio adds a therapeutic balance. Happy, normal immersion in the creative process makes cancer treatment less scary, and the trust we build with the kids through that process lets us help the kids through lots of hard times. When they’ve had a hard day or they’re worried about something, paint and play-doh embody their sadness and fear and the art therapists receive it. It’s  a gentle, normalizing, fluid process, moving from education to self-expression to catharsis according to the clients’ needs–and it’s all art therapy.

Happy, Happy Birthday to You!

Sometimes the things that the kids say in the clinic are so funny and cute that it is worth sharing. The priceless musings of our patients function not only as reminders of how delightful and resilient they are, but also as reminders of why the staff here loves the job that we all do.

There are so many examples of how our young patients make the everyday special with their unique view of the world.  A 3 year- old girl who had a really rough time and was admitted to the hospital, woke up the next morning  feeling better and excitedly requested sparkles and ribbon. She spent a long time creating a mixed media masterpiece, humming, singing and even doing an impromptu chicken dance as she worked. When she had finished making art and I was getting ready to leave the room she exclaimed, “Happy, Happy Birthday to you!”  It was neither her birthday nor mine, but she was just so happy that it must have seemed like the right thing to say.

photo- bdayblog