My late husband, Michael Buckley, was a fine artist. His experience of the world was a carnival of sensory stimulation. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste: He loved life, engaged fully in every moment. He captured it with words and images on canvas, on paper, in pencil, oil — and even coffee and tea. And he summoned the best of those resources to face his treatment for stage IV metastatic lung cancer: humor, courage and grace.
As you can imagine, during that process we spent endless hours in a series of waiting rooms. And in so many we found the ubiquitous waiting room puzzles, meant to occupy, to entertain, to distract. And we thought – what else might be made available to support, to engage, to comfort?
Thus, the seeds for “Drawing Inspiration” were planted. As a cancer patient, Michael understood the need for introspection and emotional connection. His life as a working artist suggested such solace might come from interaction with art. With our daughter, Vanessa, we brainstormed possibilities. The puzzle of going beyond the puzzles. Initially, we hoped to fund some art supplies that could be made available for patient use, and we brought a modest proposal to Manon O’Connor, Director of Development, for consideration. We soon learned that a variety of health and other regulations made markers and craypas a bit over the top for a hospital waiting room. Reasonable, of course. So, Manon joined the idea generation with suggestions of what might work, what already existed that could be enhanced, and what could actually enlarge the scope and increase the potential impact of the type of gift we hoped to provide. She shared that the UVM Cancer Center already had tablets for patient use during chemotherapy, and the planned new construction might include avenues for viewing and engaging with art — smart boards for example.
So the vision shifted to using technology – not to produce it as many art therapy programs offer – but to have easy access, experience it, and share the experience with others via a platform for connecting viewers with the art and each other. Forging a partnership with the University of Vermont Medical Center, in appreciation for the quality of care and the compassion Michael received there, we created the Drawing Inspiration fund and donated 50 of Michael’s drawing for an online auction. The proceeds were used to create an online art gallery; virtual meeting space where hearts and minds can connect through art.
In the face of insurmountable challenge, it might seem simple to the point of being trite to say that art heals. But, Michael and I believed that art touches us in ways that can provide a moment of tranquility, foster insight, support understanding, and sometimes offer solace. There is something both individual and universal in the experience of viewing art. We can celebrate our part in a bigger picture, know our own human frailty and even be empowered by it. We wanted to create an opportunity both for connection with the artwork and community with others sharing similar challenges – other patients, other caregivers. As you explore the Online Art Collection: Drawing Inspiration, we hope you’ll agree it accomplishes just that.
Laura Lipton is a resident of Charlotte, VT. She is Co-Director of MiraVia, LLC, a human resource development firm based there. She is also a patient/family advisor at the UVM Medical Center and a grandmother who loves seeing her three Burlington-based granddaughters thriving.