Recently, a group of both seasoned and emerging Hernando artists came together to create 180 examples of exquisite holiday-themed art—masterworks that will be sent across the nation to grateful recipients.
The artists were the residents of the Brooksville Healthcare Center, guided and inspired by the members of the Nature Coast Art League. Their artistic creations took the form of handmade, personally designed Christmas cards—merry missives they planned to send to friends and family members as personalized Yuletide gifts.
The Nature Coast Art League’s mission statement is to increase public awareness of the arts, promote the visual arts, and encourage and support artists in Hernando County and surrounding areas.” Now in its second year, this NCAL Christmas Card project was conceptualized by NCAL member artist Bonnie Young in conjunction with club president Ed Barker and former president Linda Graves.
“We gave the residents cards with designs,” said Young. “We made them artists for the day. We asked them, What do you want to do? We donated the paper and supplies so they could paint with acrylics, watercolors, crayons, pencils, whatever they wanted.”
Inspired by her own mother’s experience living in a nursing home, Young wanted to provide a positive and creative experience for these residents. To this end, the league supplied cards emblazoned with designs created by NCAL artists, many of which were hand-sketched by past president Linda Graves.
The cards bore images of decorated trees and wreaths, palm trees adorned with Christmas lights, flamingos wearing Santa hats, and other holiday scenes. After coloring or painting the cards, artists were free to enhance their designs with stickers and glitter.
“Last year, we donated the cards. But this year, we wanted to go one step further,” said Graves. “We came out one hour, three times a week, to personally help the residents make their cards.”
Graves said that the Christmas Card project falls in line with the mission of the NCAL. “I believe this project definitely promoted the arts in our county in ways that many of us would not have thought of, and the experience of creating something beautiful was placed into the hands of those less fortunate,” she said.
Kara Hazivasilis, activities director at Brooksville Healthcare Center, says that this art activity has proven highly beneficial for their residents. “It makes them happy; it gives them purpose,” she said. “They say, ‘I made this card myself!’ Some of them ask if they can make another.”
Hazivasilis says that one resident, a retired professional artist, rediscovered his love for painting through his participation in the NCAL Christmas Card project. Another, a native of England, discovered her love of art by way of this same project.
“During London in wartime, when I was in school, we were evacuated and I had no art education,” said Ena, adding as she admired her completed Santa Claus greeting card, “I love art now.”
Indeed, Hazivasilis reveals that many of the Christmas card artists would ask her the time and date of the next cardmaking session, and for residents unable to leave their rooms, cards and supplies were delivered to them personally.
“Last year, when the residents sent their cards, their families responded with notes that read things like, ‘I didn’t know we had an artist in the family,'” she said.
Linda Graves says that the Nature Coast Art League artists plan to return to the Brooksville Healthcare Center in the future to make more cards and memories.
“It doesn’t take much,” said Graves, “to make people happy.”