Country Day students donate artwork to Children’s Hospital of Michigan

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 6, 2017

 Detroit Country Day second-grader Anna Trautman poses with the piece she donated to Children’s Hospital of Michigan alongside her mother, Stephanie Trauman, left, and grandmother, Cheri LaGrasso, right.

Detroit Country Day second-grader Anna Trautman poses with the piece she donated to Children’s Hospital of Michigan alongside her mother, Stephanie Trauman, left, and grandmother, Cheri LaGrasso, right.

Photos provided by Katie Higgins

BEVERLY HILLS — Each year, Children’s Hospital of Michigan is presented with an influx of color and beauty from the students at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills.

Known as the Art from the Heart program, artwork created by Detroit Country Day students has been donated to the hospital for the past 15 years. This year, 37 pieces of art were placed in the hospital for the enjoyment of patients and visitors.

“Every year, our talented students inspire our community through Art from the Heart,” said Headmaster Glen Shilling. “It’s one of Detroit Country Day’s most beloved initiatives. Students of all ages put great care and creativity into crafting their projects and look forward to sharing their work with the young patients at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.”

The program began in 2002, when Elizabeth Leitao, who worked with Children’s Hospital of Michigan in addition to being a teacher at Detroit Country Day, decided that using the artwork of children in a children’s hospital was fitting and could benefit both institutions.

“I was a volunteer at the Children’s Hospital, and the person in charge of volunteer community relations approached me about hiring an artist to do some works throughout the hospital,” explained Leitao. “We decided it was better to try and get children’s art. I spoke to the director of the school, and she suggested I go through (the) Friends of the Arts Committee, which sponsors all of its art programs, and I presented my idea to them, and they wanted to incorporate the whole school, from pre-K to high school. They said they would cover the framing costs.”

Grace Serra, a former employee of Children’s Hospital who still consults for the hospital while serving as an art curator at Wayne State University, said the benefits of the program can’t be calculated.

“The Detroit Country Day program is amazing,” said Serra. “It’s an ongoing relationship that does a lot of good. It is a win-win for both organizations. For Detroit Country Day, kids often don’t think they can make a difference, and this lets them see what they can do for others. For our patients, I often hear them and their families talking about the art and how it makes them feel more connected to that artwork and makes their stay more accessible.”

The artwork is chosen based on the positive effect it could have for the young patients.

“All the artwork is good, so the artwork I pick isn’t necessarily better, but those that will provide something for the patients,” explained Serra. “I choose a lot of nature-based imagery … and things I think will uplift the kids. I also notice teens don’t often feel connected, so I also try to find pieces they will be more connected with.”

The students at Detroit Country Day said they are honored to help other kids in need and think it is a great learning experience.

“I chose to take all-year art (class) last year, and we were tasked to come up with a piece of artwork that could fit the requirements of Art from the Heart,” said freshman Jalen Hunter, whose art was among the pieces chosen for the program. “Our art teacher toward the end of the year gave us the choice of one of our projects that would make a kid smile. I was kind of inspired by a sports theme, the Detroit Tigers, and the particular limitations of the artwork was we had to use a solid figure and limit it to two colors.”

Nearly 500 pieces have been donated to Children’s Hospital through the program, all of which are still on display. Much of this year’s art will be going in the new critical care expansion at the hospital after first being put on display in the hospital’s cafeteria.

“The students go down on the bus to see the hospital, and they are recognized and get photos with their artwork,” said Leitao. “It’s a positive program for our students. It’s a way to give back to our community and a great way for our students to give back. It’s hard to give up their artwork, but they do it each year because they know it makes the time in the hospital for these children easier.”

Serra said the presence of art doesn’t just serve an aesthetic purpose, but a holistic and spiritual one as well.

“The hospital cannot express their gratitude for this ongoing program,” said Serra. “In times when art programs can be difficult to fund, having this program each year does a lot of good. Art is not just decoration, but it is part of holistic care, and the psychological effects of having this emotional aid there can’t be underestimated.”