12-year-old cancer survivor creates canine art exhibit for KY hospital
Republished from WEKU.
At Kentucky Children’s Hospital, canine companions aim to bring comfort to kids.
One 12-year-old artist and cancer survivor has an art exhibition showcasing the therapy dogs.
On the ground floor lobby of Kentucky Children’s Hospital, 10 colorful paintings of UK HealthCare’s animal-assisted therapy dogs are lined up on a gallery wall. 12-year-old cancer survivor Katie Carmichael created the Pups of Color exhibit. It’s her first art exhibition. The young artist said painting the pup portraits helped her look on the bright side throughout her treatment for bone cancer.
“Being able to take something that’s positive and being able to feel like I’ve accomplished something and see your progress through a number of things is just such a great way to make the time pass and just to feel like you can do something even though there are so many things you can’t do. Cause at the time, I feel like when I first started this project I couldn’t even walk yet and here I am now and I have a new prosthesis. It’s just amazing to see how much I’ve come from the beginning of this project to the end,” explained Katie.
Katie was diagnosed with cancer in June, 2021 a few weeks before her 10th birthday. Her Mother, Niki, said Katie had osteosarcoma which is a bone cancer.
“She had it in her lower leg so she eventually had that amputated and just through all of that recovery and chemotherapy treatment she wasn’t really able to do a whole lot of stuff. It was very rough months there. So, art was one of the things that she was still able to do even though she was stuck in the hospital a week at a time,” said Niki.
Niki said her daughter has always been good at art. But she said, seeing Katie host her first art exhibit at age 12 was a big deal.
“I took a few progress pictures. So, it was very cool to see her come up with all of these. They’re so well done. And just to see her progress. It was a cool process to watch,” said Niki.
When Katie was a patient in the hospital, she got to know some of the UK HealthCare therapy dogs. The ones she didn’t meet in person, she saw pictures of. Katie loves animals and was inspired to create the pet portraits of the canine counselors. The pet paintings include different breeds from a toy poodle to a large Bernese Mountain Dog/Goldendoodle Mix. Katie stands next to the exhibit and recalls how much fun she had painting the pups.
“I think that my two favorites as far as painting would be Bella and Jack. Jack was super funny. He has three tennis balls in his mouth. I really kind of went wild with the color pallet here and it was just really fun to do. I like it when animals are just kind of silly, goofing around. It’s always really fun. And then with Bella over here. That Bella was just adorable. I love drawing frizzy hair on dogs. It’s really fun. And then my favorite dog overall is Toby for sure because I have a personal relationship at this point with that dog,” reported Katie.
On this day Toby, a Black Bernese Mountain Dog/Goldendoodle mix surprises Katie by showing up to the exhibit with his owner, Maggie Metcalf. It was a sweet reunion.
Katie pets Toby and they sit close together on a large ottoman. Twice a week for six years, Maggie Metcalf and Toby have been visiting kids like Katie at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Metcalf said Katie used to be her neighbor.
“It was a real privilege and an honor to be able to share Toby with her while she was in the hospital cause it’s the scariest place for kids,” said Metcalf.
And now Metcalf says she likes seeing the portrait of Toby which leads the art exhibit Pups of Color.
“I think she did a really great job. She really captured the different personalities of the different dogs,” said Metcalf.
The Pups of Color display is only the third patient-involved exhibit at the hospital according to Erin McAnallen, expressive arts resource specialist at the hospital. McAnallen said she believes from its beginning to fruition the art exhibit has been healing for Katie, the dog handlers, and for anyone who sees it. She said, the exhibit is a process that has come full circle and Katie is incredible.
“I remember meeting Katie and her intent and focus was spot on. Her creative spirit is incredible and talent. I mean she’s very talented cause it takes a lot of dedication,” said McAnallen.
McAnallen said Pups of Color has been on display since October of 2023. She expects the art exhibit to remain in the Kentucky Children’s Gallery for at least a year and then she said it will have a home in a new location in the hospital.
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Originally published by WEKU.
Republished with permission.