Children’s hopes and dreams ‘Unmasked’ in cultural center exhibit


Guests attending the opening of a nationally recognized artist at the Cultural Center of Ponte Vedra Beach also had an opportunity to view an equally inventive exhibition by local artists.

Titled “Unmasked,” the colorful exhibition of painted masks was created by children who are patients at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital and Nemours Clinic. The exhibit was mounted by the Museum of Contemporary Art and Art with a Heart in Healthcare, a nonprofit that aims to aid the healing process of sick children through art. From painting and coloring to jewelry making and origami, Art with a Heart in Healthcare’s artists and volunteers work with the children at their hospital bedside.

“It’s so helpful because it gives the children something to distract and entertain them,” said Cheryl Barnett of First Tennessee Bank, a sponsor of the exhibition. “It also gives family members a little break while the children are doing their artwork, so the program is really beneficial for the whole family.”

Barnett, who attended the opening of the Ponte Vedra Beach exhibit, said she found it interesting to see how each child decorated his or her own mask.

“They are so special and so touching because each child chose to tell a story,” she said.

For example, one child with cystic fibrosis decorated her mask to look like a pair of healthy lungs in order to raise awareness of her disease. Seventeen-year-old Cheyenne, meanwhile, decorated her mask as though it were assembled from jigsaw puzzle pieces.

“Everyone has pieces to their puzzle and some are the pieces to a puzzle,” Cheyenne wrote. “The difference is how the pieces fit together.”

Art with a Heart in Healthcare artist Maddie Firestone also attended the exhibit. After volunteering with the program and working with children at the Ronald McDonald House, she soon joined the program as a contract artist.

““My favorite part is the bonds you make with the children,” she said. “I love the moments when kids aren’t feeling well and they get so into the art that they completely forget they’re in a hospital setting and they haven’t had their pain medication.”

Ponte Vedra residents Dana Minyard and Patti Peeples said they enjoyed the exhibit.

“It’s both heartbreaking and uplifting,” Minyard said. “It really runs the gamut of emotions.”

“Unmasked” will be on display at the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach through May 28. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.