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CVU senior’s project supports healing with art

Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 2:57 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Champlain Valley Union High School graduate's senior project is raising money and awareness for a program using art as a from of therapy for patients.

Before Abigail Harkness moves on to her college career at Bates in a few weeks, she wanted to help a community program stick around.

"Abigail really made the program grow in so many different ways, on so many levels," said Rebecca Schwarz the Art from the Heart coordinator at Burlington City Arts.

The program involves volunteer artists visiting patients at the UVM Medical Center and Children's Hospital where they work on art projects together. Research has shown the arts can decrease pain, anxiety, sleep issues and just overall make people feel better.

"I think one thing I loved about the program was that it was so much more than just the art, because there is so much connecting with the patients, through talking about doing other things while doing the art as well," Harkness said.

She used her Graduation Challenge at CVU to raise $1,000 for Art From the Heart. "It definitely took a lot of work and it went better than I could have expected," Harkness said.

She worked with Schwarz to select artwork produced by patients, health care workers, and program volunteers. They were printed on notecards and sold as packs at craft fairs and through Shelburne retailers.

"When Abigail reached out to us with this fun project, we were happy to help," said Brad Reed with Villanti Printing in Milton, who printed the artwork on the cards for free. "She was so excited when she picked it up and ready to get it out into the field and start raising that money."

As a child, Harkness spent some time at UVM Medical Center, so when she first heard about the Art from the Heart Program a couple of years ago, she jumped at the chance to volunteer as a way to give back.

“I’m definitely really excited that during right now -- since there’s definitely less funding with the pandemic -- that kids can still be doing artwork now, and I guess I’m hoping that other people in the area will see this and want to start volunteering as well,” Harkness said.

"Abigail has really given so much, which is really exceptional for a high schooler to not just give hours of their time, but to also make it a fundraising project and help spread the joy of the art work," Schwarz said.

A student’s connection to a program and its patients, resulting in a project with lasting impacts.

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