The healing power of art: CHAP at OHSU Doernbecher

Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP) has been spreading joy at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for 10 years. We asked CHAP Lead Hospital Art Teacher Sharon Jaye Perrins to tell us more about CHAP’s mission and impact at OHSU Doernbecher.

20161104_162835 copy“I just love this. This is how I heal.”

That’s how one mother of an oncology patient recently explained the solace she found through the healing power of art.

CHAP was started by Frank Etxaniz in 2006. Frank believed that it was possible to harness people’s nervous energy and transform it into creative energy. Making art can be such a release.

So many beautiful connections happen at the art table. We see young patients becoming fast friends. We witness mothers supporting each other, spot on. Fathers sit down and surprise their children with what they can do when they pick up a paintbrush. This feeling of community is at the heart of CHAP.

Where can OHSU Doernbecher patients connect with CHAP?

Each week at OHSU, CHAP’s teaching artists lead 36.5 hours of art-making all around campus. On OHSU Doernbecher’s 8th floor, CHAP connects with individuals awaiting surgeries. The waiting area is transformed into a beading workshop with patients and families pulling up chairs or kneeling on the floor alongside coffee tables topped with green felt tablecloths. Busy hands help change a room’s energy, and entire families are welcome – the more, the merrier!

CHAP also offers art in two inpatient locations at OHSU Doernbecher: the 9th floor (General Pediatrics) and 10 South (Pediatric Hematology/Oncology). Our style is to leave things very open-ended so children have freedom to decide what they want to create. It’s truly a pleasure to watch art-making unfold, whether it’s with clay, paint, beads, sequins or feathers.

Our longstanding philosophy at CHAP is that the children will be recognized for their creativity and ingenuity, not by their disease or diagnosis.

CHAP is proud to contribute to the patient’s experience in the hospital. Our dedicated team of volunteers and art teachers has crafted this in-hospital art program to bring patients into a communal space where they can work side by side with other patients and their families. When a patient is in isolation, CHAP can lovingly assemble art supplies to be delivered to the patient’s room to help keep them active, engaged and on the road to wellness.

A great way to connect with CHAP is by contacting one of OHSU Doernbecher’s amazing Child Life Specialists. Or just keep an eye out for our colorful art carts rolling down the hallways of OHSU Doernbecher. We’d love to bring a little ray of light your way!

How can families stay engaged with CHAP outside of the hospital?

When families are discharged from the hospital, we encourage them to keep in touch by visiting our CHAP studio in Southeast Portland. All children and teens affected by pediatric illness or special needs are invited to participate in inclusive Art Club events at the studio, free of charge. Learn more here.

Interested in learning more about CHAP? Visit their website to find out more!

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About the Author

Lisa McMahan is a social media coordinator working to discover and share stories at OHSU. Got a story idea? Connect with the team: socialmedia@ohsu.edu.
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