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CHORI Launches New Community Art Project

"I think it can be really hard sometimes for people to understand that the research we do here everyday at CHORI is connected to the larger community, to helping people, to finding cures for kids."

By partnering with community artists, local organizations and the hospital branch of Children’s Hospital Research Center Oakland, CHORI is launching a new, community-based art project to create and establish permanent art exhibits inside the CHORI building. Called Health and Science for Children Art Project of the Eastbay, or HandSCAPES, the CHORI project is the brainchild of Julie Saba, MD, PhD, a principal investigator for CHORI’s Center for Cancer.

“I’d really like to make what we do at CHORI and why we do it palpable the moment you come through the door,” says Dr. Saba.

While lining CHORI's walls with art both honors the employees who work there and makes the work experience more positive by providing a beautiful working environment, the goal of HandSCAPES is much more ambitious.

"The idea really is to foster an artistic and emotional connection between the researchers here at CHORI, the doctors, staff and patients at the hospital, and the Oakland community at large," Dr. Saba explains. "We're only 6 blocks away from the hospital but 6 blocks can sometimes seem like a gulf, and while we're right here in the middle of Oakland, I don't think the community knows what we're really about."

Dr. Saba hopes to draw CHORI's connections to the hospital and the local community to the fore through the installation in CHORI's halls of art that celebrates and exemplifies those connections. Ideas currently underway focus on art created by children at the hospital; art or photography by local artists, CHORI researchers and others that depicts children; and science as art

Several pieces of art depicting children from the community and around the world have already been donated to the project. Dr. Saba has also teamed up with Hayley Oggle, CHRCO's Artist-in-Residence, to work with the Children's Hospital patients on the creation of a Community Quilt to be placed permanently on display at CHORI.

"The project is being done in partnership with our Artist-in-Residence pro-gram," explains Ms. Oggle. "It's kids from all different cross-sections of the hospital, from teens doing re-hab after a car accident to kids being treated for cancer."

Every child gets to create their own square that is representative of how they envision themselves, with the knowledge that the whole piece will be part of a permanent art exhibit.
"It really does inspire them. They've really expressed an interest in having this piece of themselves out there in the world, and in being able to show their artwork to their community. It's a pretty special thing," says Ms. Oggle.
The Community Quilt will be the first of hopefully many art exhibits created by CHRCO patients that go into permanent display at CHORI. For the mean time, however, Dr. Saba is starting small, one installation at time, in part because the project is envisioned as a long term community effort which will continue to grow and evolve over time, but also because CHORI HandSCAPES is currently based entirely on the volunteer efforts of already overcommitted scientists and staff.

"We're looking for any kind of support people can offer," says Dr. Saba. "We need financial support for the installation of the different exhibits, as well as for potentially procuring art, but we're also interested in donations by local community artists of their work that is either representational of children, or for children."

In addition to the Community Quilt, Dr. Saba is looking to have two other exhibits installed for what she hopes will be a gala community opening in the spring.
One is a collection of photographs of children donated by CHORI researchers, who have unique opportunities for interacting with children all across the globe as part of their international research. The other is a colorful collection of scientific images that represent various studies undertaken by CHORI researchers.

"Some of these images are so beautiful it's hard to imagine that they are anything but art," says Dr. Saba of the scientific representations of such things as fruitflies, cancer cells, infectious bacteria and parasites, and tissues . "I loved the idea of having people see how beautiful these images were and connect with them, without knowing at first what they were seeing. Then, after that visual experience, they will be able to read informational plaques next to the images and learn about the science behind them."

Other ideas for potential installations include those that focus on the history of the science and the cultural history of the CHORI site, or the kind of bright and colorful art that is created specifically for children.

"People have been really enthusiastic about the idea behind CHORI HandSCAPES and it has really taken off. We want to keep encouraging people in whatever ways they are interested to help make this project a reality," Dr. Saba says.

For more information about CHORI HandSCAPES or to find out how you can help, please visit the HandScapes website.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM

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