1999-07-17 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance
by Susan Hartenstein

Consequences. They're funny sorts of things. Sometimes you don't profoundly understand them until the end. As a child, did you ever have to stay in a hospital? Were you frightened and overwhelmed? Did you want your Mommy and Daddy to stay with you and hold you and bring your toys? Did those gray, barren walls make you feel alone and isolated? As a parent, have you ever had to leave your child in a hospital? Did it tear you apart to have to do so and were you frightened, too? Many of us have had one or both of these experiences. That is why RAA is so very proud to be an important part of the new Angels On The Bay Pediatric Unit at Peninsula Hospital Center. Thanks to the caring, intelligent people like Nancy Vardakis who are responsible for this unit, it is a warm, child and parent-friendly place. Designed to answer not just medical needs of a sick child, in a sophisticated and specialized manner, it also treats the emotional needs of child and parent. It recognizes that one can't be properly treated without treating the other. The facilities and interior design have been beautifully coordinated, in the theme of "Under The Sea," to give comfort and provide a sense of home and fun. These include rooming-in accommodations for parents and a playroom with an aquarium. That is where RAA comes in. Friday, July 9, a ceremony was held at Peninsula Hospital Center to unveil a new Postal Service aquarium fish stamp in conjunction with the pediatric unit. A percentage of the day's sales of the stamp will be donated to the Pediatric Unit. Honored at this ceremony, as well, was the gorgeous mural created by children in RAA's kidsmART program with the expert guidance and talents of their teacher, muralist Alex Guzman.

Now gracing an entire wall of the Pediatric Units parents lounge, the 14 foot mural pictures a bright undersea world inhabited by dazzling sea creatures. Referred to by the hospital's Chairman of the Board of Directors, Joel Miele sr., as an "amazing mural," it brings a smile to the face of anyone looking at it, particularly when one realizes that this a work created by children for children and their parents. It joins the murals already created by RAA's Geoff Rawling for the facility. additionally, in the future, individual artworks done by students in RAA's arts education programs will decorate the unit. Certificates of Appreciation were presented to Mr. Guzman, KidSmart program director Chris Jorge, and me, Susan Hartenstein, RAA liaison for the project. Speakers at the ceremony emphasized how much can be done for a community when the members of the community reach out to each other in a spirit of cooperation.

Peninsula Hospital Center under the leadership of Robert Levine and Joel Miele, the Postal Service and RAA were all recognized for these efforts. Assemblymember Pauline-Rhodd Cummings called PHC a "hidden gem." Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer applauded RAA for bringing joy to the hospital
by doing what we do best-art. Perhaps the most impressive speaker, was Arthur Lloyd.

He is one of the children who worked on the mural. In the presence of legislative and corporate title holders, this fine young man walked proudly to the podium and, spontaneously and without pretension, spoke of how glad he was to work on the mural and to give something to the children of the hospital. He was roundly applauded.

So ultimately, that's what this mural was about. By children, for children. For the future. Giving them an understanding that what they do, good and bad, has consequences for themselves and for others. Awards may be given, certificates may be presented. But lessons are learned. Consequences. A bunch of kids having fun working on a mural at an after-school program in a local school. A ceremony in a hospital lobby. Afterwards, you and others and the young man go up to the unit itself. The young man sees his work prominently hanging in a place where kids just like him will be cared for. You watch the youngster gaining even more insight into the results of his actions. Then you happen to see a three and a half year
old disabled girl in the lap of a pediatric nurse. She is lovingly and gently bottle-feeding the child in an atmosphere of caring and comfort.

Consequences. They're funny sorts of things. Sometimes you don't profoundly understand them until the end, when you see them one child at a time.


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