Thursday, October 30th, 2014, I visited the Creating Hope Foundation, a non profit organization helping people cope with cancer through self expression and creativity. Every Thursday, board members, Tina and John Gianfagna, set up their art table near the elevator that leads to the cancer treatment rooms in the Simon Cancer Center. Patients coming to and/or from treatment, are drawn to the cheerful watercolor bookmarks displayed on the table. Their presence, pretty and delicate, symbolize a type of optimism needed on an individual’s quest to live with joy and hope no matter the circumstances.
John lead me through the three step art-making process to create my own beautiful watercolor bookmark. A sense of time and any worries I may have had slowly slipped away. As I focused on the process, I imagined, Jeanette, the Gianfagna’s daughter and founder of Creating Hope. She painted the first bookmark and kept painting them. Art-making became essential in coping with her cancer treatment. She told her doctors the activity took her to another place, a time without pain and anxiety. During times of uncertainty in my life, I have used art-making as a refuse from fear, worry and anxiety.
It was an inspiration to meet with Diane Sciarretta, learn of her mission, and attend one of her healing sessions with a group of caregivers from Riley Hospital. Her enthusiasm and skill in communicating the benefits of using art as therapy to help overcome life’s stresses, helped make the process approachable and effective. We were able to reflect on our similar missions – using creativity and self-expression to help cope with illness – one that the founder of Creating Hope, Jeanette Shamblen, also found through her personal experience.
Written Tina Gianfagna, President, Creating Hope, Inc.