From February 23rd to April 14th, the Banana Factory’s 9th Annual Hope & Healing Juried Art Show is on display in the Crayola Gallery. Students in the Lehigh Valley created the artwork for this exhibition, focusing on the themes of healing and comfort. Healing Through the Arts, a non-profit organization in Allentown, sponsored the art show. When the exhibition ends, the organization plans on donating the artwork to local healthcare facilities. The exhibition aims to generate awareness about the powerful role that art plays in healing. Healing Through the Arts defines healing as “an internal process you do for yourself.” When we experience traumatic events such as illness and loss, it is often difficult to process the emotions that these life-changing events evoke. The journey of healing is different for everyone. Art allows us to heal in a way that both unites and empowers us. It is a cathartic coping mechanism for people who have experienced trauma or suffer from mental illness. Art facilitates self-discovery, relaxation, and relief.
The first prize winning piece for the high school category is Koi by Ella Rose Beaky, a Lehigh Valley Academy student. Beaky’s decision to create a watercolor painting of a koi pond emphasizes the idea that healing often coincides with people’s sense of place. People have traditionally perceived koi ponds as spaces with a calming ambiance. Beaky states: “I chose to paint fish to promote healing because of the way they glide through the water.” She captures the graceful movement of the fish beautifully in her painting, using acrylic and colored pencils to add depth to her watercolors. When I look at Koi, I personally think of all the times I sat by my grandparents’ koi pond relaxing on their patio and reading. This painting evokes feelings of nostalgia in me as I think of how excited I used to be as a child when I would feed my grandfather’s koi fish and help him tend to the pond. While my grandfather has since passed away, this memory continues to make me smile. There is something incredibly beautiful about how certain places can evoke memories and play a direct role in the healing process of losing a loved one.
The 2nd prize-winner for the high school category is Whitehall-Coplay High School’s Julie Alderman with her piece Cloud Watching. Alderman based her piece off of the idea that she has always found a sense of calmness whenever she walks through her neighborhood and takes a breath of fresh air. I think about all of the times that I have felt stressed and overwhelmed and did exactly this. Alderman evokes this “feeling of just getting away” in her piece, using bright colors and acrylic paint to create a pop art inspired piece.
Elysse Abraham of Moravian Academy placed 3rd with her watercolor painting The Path To Beauty. She based her artwork off of a picture she had taken while driving home from school one day, expressing that “I painted the scene to remind people to look for beauty in life, even when things are tough.” The pink-tinted sunset in the piece especially captivated Abraham, reminding us that beauty often finds us during the most unexpected moments.
For the college category, Northampton Community College’s Lila Shokr took home the first prize with her painting Happy To See You. Shokr states: “To me, there is nothing more purely happy than a dog when it greets its owner…Their smiles and playful actions instantly heal whatever problems you faced throughout the day, and in that little moment of joy, there is hope in all that is happy and pure in the world.” For many people, animals are direct sources of comfort. Even when you might be having the worst day, coming home to a dog that is excited to see you is bound to make you immediately smile. Shokr uses acrylic paint to create the image of the dog, overlapping different colored paints to build texture.
The Little Things by Brianna Keiser, a student at Lehigh Carbon Community College, won the 2nd place prize in the college category. Keiser created this painting to express how the little things in life can bring us joy during the healing process and in life in general. Keiser’s memories of basking in the grass in the summertime, watching the sunset, inspired her decision to create a wildflower illuminated by a sunset. Keiser reveals, “there are extraordinarily inspiring people in my life who simply radiate happiness, making me feel at peace in their company, and it is with those people in mind that I decided to make this piece.”
Walking through this exhibition was a powerful experience for me, as I thought of moments in my life in which I have experienced tremendous loss. The paintings encouraged me to think about my own healing process and what people, places, and things in my life bring out the best in me. The Hope & Healing exhibition is more than just an art show. The exhibition provides the community with the opportunity to join together in the process of healing, eliciting a sense of empathy that reminds us we are not on this journey alone.
*Feature photo credits: Ally Kornberger*