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With the help of the Child Life Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 22 new pieces of art were revealed from 19 talented adolescent patients during the Teen Art Show. The artwork is on display in a hospital hallway that was transformed permanently into the Teen Art Gallery.
The gallery displays brightly colored, powerful photography, group projects, drawings, sculptures and poetry created exclusively by teen patients. Using paint, canvas and other media, young artists effectively communicate raw emotions that may otherwise be difficult to verbalize. The Teen Art Show—this year themed “My Journey”—is a formal gathering that displays various works from teen patients, some of whom were in attendance to reveal their own art to St. Jude staff, patients and their families.
“The art show gives teens another way to express themselves,” said Kelly Anderson, Child Life specialist at St. Jude. “Teenagers can have deep and often conflicting emotions, especially if they have cancer. Sharing their emotions in this fashion helps them get those feelings out there somehow. It allows patients to share feelings and experiences concerning their illness in an artistic fashion.”
For many adolescents and young adults, the middle ground between childhood and adulthood is rocky and confusing. For teens with cancer or other catastrophic diseases, the load can be exacerbated by hair loss, weight gain, isolation, questions about mortality and depression.
“When teens with cancer are admitted to a hospital, they lose the sense of freedom they were just learning how to gain,” Anderson said. “Their friends and family are worried and are checking on them more than usual. The autonomy is gone. They also look at themselves then and now, comparing how it used to be.”
As its name suggests, St. Jude is a children’s hospital, but its staff also diligently and passionately works to ensure that adolescent and young adult patients fit in as much as possible.
“Teens at St. Jude grow up quickly because of their experience as cancer patients. They see a bigger picture than what they would if they were not patients,” Anderson said. “We encourage our teens to share with us how they are feeling. We introduce them to other teens at St. Jude. They need to feel like someone is on their side.”
October 8, 2010