In 1973, an Atlanta businessman named John Feight volunteered to create a mural at a nearby hospital. Sent to the children’s floor with his supplies, John had already begun painting when a young patient came out of her room and gently asked if she could help. “Of course my dad couldn’t say no,” says Scott Feight, John’s son and executive director of the Foundation for Hospital Art, which John went on to found. “And working together, he quickly saw that the mural wasn’t about creating his masterpiece—it was about people.”
Fast-forward 43 years, and the nonprofit has donated over 44,000 pieces of artwork to more than 4,400 heath-care facilities in 195 countries. On Friday, July 29, Wheat Ridge’s Lutheran Medical Center will join that lengthy list when PaintFest America 2016—a 50-state tour the foundation is staging over 50 consecutive days this summer—pairs local cancer survivors with current patients to create a new mural for the hospital.
Each team works on a stenciled canvas created by the foundation’s team of artists. “When you bring survivors back and they share their stories with current patients, it’s incredibly moving,” says Scott. “The patients are scared, and the survivors encourage them and show them there is a future.”
Once the individual canvases are finished, the Foundation for Hospital Art brings them all to a studio, where a team of artists touches up each panel and connects the pieces to create one mural that will be hung in the hospital.
“The impact on the staff is really cool to see,” Scott says. “Having art in those hospital hallways helps the patients and the staff simply have a more positive experience.” Eventually, the murals become landmarks, with patients and staff alike using the cheerful, colorful creations to guide visitors.
“The hospital can be such a scary place when you’re stuck there looking at blank walls,” Scott says. “But studies have shown us that the staff provide better care and people heal better in a place with art. It creates a bright, positive environment for everyone.”