For immediate release: Feb. 7, 2007

GALVESTON, Texas - Child experts have long understood that children will often express in art what they can't or won't say in words. For this reason, child life specialists at UTMB Children's Hospital have used art therapy as part of the facility's holistic approach to patient care for many years. The effort has now grown beyond the walls of the hospital, thanks to the Art Stars Program.

Dr. Frederick S. Huang, director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, established Art Stars two years ago as a way to choose designs for note cards sold to benefit Children's Hospital.

"Our child life director, Janis Matthews, and her team do a great job of providing daily art therapy for the kids," Huang said. "I and many of my colleagues strongly believe in it as an important part of the healing process. One day it occurred to me that we should get the word out about our art therapy program by producing cards with the children's designs on them that the public could buy."

Matthews said the process of collecting and selecting the art takes an entire year. The Children's Hospital Art Stars Committee - made up of UTMB employees and members of the Galveston community - sort through every piece of artwork submitted. The top four entrants have their designs featured on a set of note cards. In addition, the committee chooses about 25 designs for a traveling display that is exhibited throughout Galveston and in Texas City. The display moves to a new location each month.

Art Stars gives UTMB's youngest patients the art therapy they need while affording the university a visible way to promote the importance of this valuable tool in the healing process. Huang also believes that the Art Stars Program gives many children a morale boost both during and after the stresses of hospitalization - whether their designs appear on the note cards or not.

"We had an unveiling of the art that would be on the cards and the display, and it was wonderful to see the kids' reactions. They were so excited to see their art and to get such positive feedback," he said.

He also lauds the community for its support of the Art Stars Program and the Children's Hospital art therapy program. "We've had people throughout the community give us their feedback and lend us their expertise. For example, the Galveston Arts Center and Children's Hospital partner on an educational program that provides guest artists to teach the kids everything from watercolor to sculpture."

Children's Hospital itself is an example of the healing value of art. Hallway ceiling tiles are painted, providing an art gallery of sorts for children being wheeled down corridors. Tall, wooden figures representing zoo animals painted in soothing colors welcome patients at the entrance of the hospital, and colorful artwork adorns the walls throughout to make the hospital experience less scary for young patients.

Both Matthews and Huang agree that creativity is good for their patients - whether as a forum for communicating feelings or as a distraction from worry and stress.

Matthews said, "We get out the crayons and paper every day and let them have at it and draw what they want. Encouraging creativity is always good for kids, but especially when they are here. Creativity often helps them to find a positive outlet by which to express their feelings."

Adds Huang, "And, sometimes there's no hidden psychological meaning or message they're trying to send. They're just kids being kids - and that's the wonder of them. They're great."

2007 Art Stars Display Locations
Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy, Galveston
Galveston County Courthouse, 722 Moody Dr., Galveston
College of the Mainland, 1200 N. Amburn Rd., Galveston
Texas City Art Festival, (location  to be determined)
Moody Gardens, One Hope Blvd., Galveston
Galveston Community College, 4015 Ave. Q, Galveston

For more information regarding display dates at these locations, or if you would like to request the display for a location, please call Daryl Ewing at (409) 643-2677. To order cards for a place of business, or for more information on where to purchase them, please call Norma Hernandez at (409) 772-1596. Art Stars note cards can be purchased at the UTMB gift shop on the first floor of John Sealy Hospital, the UTMB Bookstore on the first floor of the Moody Medical Library, and Children's Hospital. A set of eight cards featuring four designs costs $10. All proceeds benefit the patients and programs of Children's Hospital. For more information, please call (409) 772-1596.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Public Affairs Office
301 University Boulevard, Suite 3.102
Galveston, Texas 77555-0144