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Program offers younger patients chance for artistic expression

Chicago-themed artwork was created by a group, 13-year-old Jerome and 11-year-old Precious. Their work will be featured at Snow City Art's "Gallery Night" at the School of the Art Institute on September 9. | Natalie Watts/Sun-Times

The first question a Snow City Arts teacher asks a child in the hospital: “Would you like to make art with me?”

This simple question is probably the first choice a child gets to make in a hospital room, said Jonathan Heuring, development and communications director for the organization.

Snow City Arts works in the pediatric wings of several local hospitals: Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Hospital, Stroger Hospital and the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Heuring said.

Teachers help children in those facilities express themselves through art, music, theater, creative writing, film and photography — whatever they choose, he said.

Some of that art was on display Tuesday at the Two North Riverside Plaza downtown, next to the Ogilvie Transportation Center, to promote an upcoming exhibition at the School of the Art Institute. The annual gallery night on Sept. 9 will include more than 400 pieces of student-made artwork.

Students returning to the hospital often ask for their Snow City Arts teacher before they ask for anyone else, Heuring said.

“The very palpable joy and distraction that you’re giving to the students” mitigates the emotionally draining part of the job, said Eric Elshtain, a poet who teaches at Stroger for Snow City Arts.

Elshtain recalled a young boy who, in the middle of drawing, said, “It just feels so nice to be a kid again.”

At each gallery night, four students with large bodies of work will have retrospective walls featuring pieces from their portfolios.

The display of students’ work — poems, paintings and photos — also will remain at Riverside Plaza through Aug. 31.

The poem “The Sparkles of Will” was among those produced by patients who work with Snow City Arts. It will be featured at Snow City’s “Gallery Night” at the School of the Art Institute on Sept. 9, and is on display at Riverside Plaza through Aug. 31. | Na
The poem “The Sparkles of Will” was among those produced by patients who work with Snow City Arts. It will be featured at Snow City’s “Gallery Night” at the School of the Art Institute on Sept. 9, and is on display at Riverside Plaza through Aug. 31. | Natalie Watts/Sun-Times