More about “giving back” by donating our talents

I’m writing this on Memorial Day, which seems fitting.

I volunteered to sketch patients and give them the sketches at our local VA Hospital about six years ago. It became my way to say thank you to these amazing men and women who fought in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. Very few are from the present Iraq/Afghanistan war, these soldiers generally go to Walter Reed or a hospital in Texas. The hospital volunteer officers were a bit confused that someone would offer to do this and initially positioned me in the main lobby at a small table. It felt very awkward, but after doing my first sketch there was always a long line of people waiting to be drawn and I was fine.

I no longer sketch in the lobby. This materialized into me as a volunteer teaching art in their Out Patient Community Room. Art can be very therapeutic and healing. Some of my students have taken art very seriously and work on their own and at home and are now exhibiting and selling work in a Brooklyn gallery.

I do still sketch patients, but this I now do with a group of illustrators I’ve organized from the Society of Illustrators who sketch with me. A few of these talented volunteers are fellow teachers here at FIT. We go into the hospital wards a few times a year and are considered entertainment. We get to know these veterans briefly as they talk to us while we sketch them, and then we give them the sketches we’ve done. They hang them by their beds or usually send them home to family members. It makes us feel very grateful for what we have, and thankful that we can say thank you in some way, for everything they have done for all of us.

Joan Chiverton teaches SXD 635: Quick Sketching for the Pet-Product Business and SXG 140: Storyboard Techniques Studio for Costume Design.

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