By Marlene Kurland
After the school shooting in Sandy Hook elementary school, I saw a photograph on the cover of People magazine and, like everyone else in the world, my heart just broke. The unthinkable happened – 20 students and 6 adults were killed at school that day. I heard there was a place to send money to the families, and while I thought that was the least I could do, the idea came to me to paint some of the children. Soon I was creating paintings of some of the teachers too, until I found myself painting all of them. I shipped all of the paintings to the designated address. I pray that they all received the gifts and hope they brought some pleasure to the families. I only heard back from one father (Mark Barden, Daniel’s dad). I didn’t expect any thank you’s… I just wanted to do something, no matter how small.
Most people with a successful career enjoy giving back to the charities that matter to them. As a person lucky enough to make a living as an artist, I found a way to give back to one of my favorite organizations. After seeing the Shriners Hospital for Children ads on TV I soon signed up to begin sending in monthly contributions. But as I continued to see the brave children, all with big smiles on their faces and hope in their eyes, doing the unimaginable even with various abnormalities – some without legs or arms or both – I felt compelled to do even more. Since painting commissioned portraits are a big part of my art, I decided I would donate my original paintings to Shriners Hospital for Children.
I thought it would be easier to offer paintings to honor their children, but for some reason, it took several calls and many emails to different hospital locations until I finally got a response from Dr. Scott Kozin, Head of Shriners in Philadelphia. He loved the idea and said he had been thinking of a way to liven up the hallways of the hospital. Over the last two years, I have donated 7 paintings to them (all 18” x 24” oil paintings), and we continue to work together. Dr. Kozin emails photos of the precious children to me, who then become the inspiration for my paintings. I send him weekly updates as I work on each piece and occasionally receive feedback from a patient’s parent. After each painting is completed, it is shipped to Dr. Kozin; as planned, he makes sure they are hanging on the hospital’s walls in Philadelphia. It makes me feel good to have my paintings, my “happy art”, as I call it, on view to cheer up the kids and excite them when they can view paintings of themselves.