Photo courtesy of Youth Art for Healing.

Editors' Pick

Best Community Service Art Program

From their beds at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., patients can see puffy white cloud animals floating through crystal blue skies. In the radiation wing, patients pass calming seascapes on their way to treatment. The images are acrylic paintings created by local students who are part of the Youth Art For Healing program. The Bethesda-based nonprofit aims to inspire a sense of calm and comfort by collaborating with students from county schools to create artwork for area health care environments. Started in 2012, Youth Art For Healing has worked with 44 schools in Maryland and Washington to install 1,200 paintings in 16 health care centers, including Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Students from all over Montgomery County—including Montgomery Blair, Winston Churchill, Clarksburg and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high schools, Neelsville and Lakelands Park middle schools, and Garrett Park and Carderock Springs elementary schools—have participated. Some are in advanced art classes or are members of after-school art clubs; others do it as part of their regular art curriculum. The artists get their assignments in September and have until March to complete their paintings, which are displayed at an April show at the Silver Spring Civic Building before they’re installed. Youth Art For Healing Executive Director Jan Papirmeister says students learn about empathy and community service while also following artistic guidelines and accepting critiques. And patients benefit, too. Studies show that art can reduce a person’s perception of pain and anxiety, as well as decrease complications and the length of hospital stays.