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Medical School Art Exhibit Tells Stories of Hope and Healing

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” – Anne Frank 

As humans, we are all vulnerable to tragedies, illness, and misfortune. But a study cited in Harvard Public Health has confirmed what has long been suspected: Hope is linked to improved coping, well-being, and quality of life. Hope is proven to be a powerful cognition in life’s toolbox.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine‘s Creativity in Health Education Program will host a community tour and artists’ reception for its current art show, “The Healing Power of Hope,” at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the school located at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke.

“We’re thrilled to have so many extraordinarily talented artists displaying their work in our exhibit,” said Dave Trinkle, the school’s associate dean for community engagement. “This show allows us to immerse ourselves in the integral power that hope has in any healing process, whether it’s within ourselves, our friends and family, or our community.”

The exhibition showcases the works of regional artists in a variety of media, including those of featured artists Kristy Ottinger of Ottinger Quilts in Greeneville, Tenn., Jay Flack of Flacktion Art in Johnson City, Tenn., and the late William Fields.

“Hope mattered to me the most when I realized that I didn’t feel or have any hope left,” Flack said. “I believe hope is like having the best flashlight when it’s dark. It’s not a strategy, but a great tool, a teacher even. I feel so privileged to be in this show.”

Fields, a native of Chilhowie, Virginia, is known for his expressive works of art that serve as visual narratives of his life experiences.

“William always took life one day at a time with a sense of hope and grace” said Anna Buchanan, curator at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon. She curated an exhibition of Fields’ work last year. “William was always deciphering what one could learn from an experience, whether that experience was classified as good or bad. That in and of itself is a sign of a hopeful person, and I feel that that concept is reflected back in his works of art.”

Fields passed away in 2021.

Ottinger is a professional quilt maker and teacher. Best known for her narrative art quilts, she embellishes her work using found objects, mixed media, embroidery, paint, and writing.

“Making art is my form of worship,” she said. “Every creation is a spiritual conversation. Each bead sewn or found object attached comes with a prayer.”

One component of the show is a collection of art submitted through Roanoke’s Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP). The collaboration encouraged families that CHIP serves as well as staff and board members to bring a feeling of hope alive through any medium of art they desired. One section of the exhibition is dedicated to CHIP submissions.

“This was such a unique and powerful opportunity for the CHIP community,” said Rachel Hopkins, chief executive officer of CHIP. “There are many themes running throughout the body of work, all pertaining to hope as a pathway for healing. Some pieces capture the strengths of our families as they express their personal journeys of overcoming health issues and other challenges.”

Hopkins described one mother who captured the very moment she walked through the door of her new home after facing homelessness and “intimacy violence.” Other mothers told their stories of adoption through photography — the making of a family.

“The foundation of the CHIP model is a trust-based relationship. This is captured in most of the art as a representation of hope, whether it is between mother and child, grandparents, or friendships,” she said.

“The Healing Power of Hope” will run through May 8. If you are unable to attend the opening reception, you may visit the show at another time by emailing Courtney Powell or calling 540-526-2588.

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