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Bringing a little joy to the cancer centre

Connie Bell and Patti Marchand visited one of their favourite paintings, the whale painted by Barbara Howard. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Lakeridge Health Oshawa is making an effort to bring a little joy to cancer patients through the world of art.

The Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC) was recently transformed by a donation of 82 paintings from the ArtWorks for Cancer Foundation (AWCF).

These days, when one walks the halls of the DRCC, they will now see works of art ranging from landscapes to animals to Indigenous pieces.

The goal, according to Patti Marchand, the clinical director at the DRCC and Connie Bell, a member of DRCC’s patient advisory committee, was to provide a more pleasant and calming environment for the patients.

Marchand explains the donation from AWCF came about when Dr. Michael Weinberg, the founder of AWCF, reached out to the Lakeridge officials to let them know the foundation was looking to donate art to the cancer centre.

Bell says the art now decorating the cancer centre has had a positive effect on patient and family morale.

“The main objective is, when you’re sitting and waiting, I think when you’re looking at beige walls or plastic chairs, sometimes there’s still a little anxiety happening,” explains Bell. “You’re in a clinical atmosphere. But being able to look up at a beautiful painting where there’s conversations that can be struck up…kind of takes you in a different direction where you’re maybe not thinking about the purpose of you being there.”

Some of the artists involved were Phillip Craig, who put together the large painting above the stairs in the centre, Barbara Howard who is behind the painting of a whale by the elevator, and Eduard Gurevich, whose painting is of fish swimming in a forest.

Marchand says the 82 paintings that have been hung are only the first phase, as they are currently doing significant renovations to the cancer centre.

She further elaborates by saying foundation officials will “return in the fall to hang further pieces of art here in the cancer centre once [the renovations] are complete.”

Bell also points out they will be able to move some of the works of art they already have hung up around the cancer centre, as the renovations will give them more options.

Marchand says there are many styles of paintings, with many paintings being of nature, animals, beaches, and trees.

“It’s very warm I would think,” says Marchand. “Kind of warm, relaxing and inviting.”

Bell says when they were looking at the pieces that might go up, they wanted to make sure they had “that kind of calming or subtle feeling. If we looked at one and kind of went ‘Huh, that’s a little too much’ or it’s a little bit scary, or maybe doesn’t look right, then we just went and set that one aside.”

Marchand says the patient and family advisors played a key role in selecting the paintings, and advising on the types of paintings that would be beneficial for the centre.

“I took special care in what paintings went in the chemo area,” says Bell. “I was very precise and very picky, because I know that’s the hardest room that you’ll ever be in, and I wanted to make sure that those pictures were a particular kind of picture.”

Vali Mensen, a patient in the DRCC, says, “I think [the art] is beautiful – it’s gorgeous. You can kind of get lost in them.”

She says she finds herself staring at them a lot before laughing and saying, “If I’m not talking.”

She thinks the quality of the art is very high, noting, “You never know what you’re going to get sometimes, but these are great.”

Mensen says she not only finds the art beautiful, but calming as well.