Published on in Homeless Health Initiative Annual Report
Homeless Health Initiative Medical Adviser Melissa Bennett, MD, interviewed longtime HHI supporter, Dr. Stephanie Markel, about what has been meaningful to her about her 30-year relationship with HHI, and especially about the art program she helped start in 2013.
HHI: What do you enjoy most about the CHOP HHI Art Program?
Stephanie Markel: What is joyful are the interpersonal relationships. I look forward to sitting down with the moms to paint, draw, have fun and enjoy art. With art we are all on a level playing field. Art, because of the focus and creative process, allows you to put other things in the world aside. Problems go away. You can relax and enjoy.
I wish we could have done more art during the pandemic, but I understand that [shelter staff] was dealing with crises. But we are always striving towards offering more art opportunities.
HHI: Yes, the relationships and supportive community that develops between people of all ages and backgrounds in the sanctuary of the art space is very special. Are there any stories that stand out for you?
SM: Do you remember, in the early years of the art program, when we developed a closeness with a small group of ladies who consistently brought their openness and creative talent? We worked intensely for weeks with S. on a leather-tooled handbag, on which she imprinted her signature female empowered symbol. S. would come and wait for me each week, even when I was late, to help me unload my supplies. I understood my message was being received and that it was reciprocated: I cared about her and she cared about me. It was really special.
HHI: We at HHI have been grateful for your enduring partnership and support around art and HHI program in general. Can you tell us what makes the relationship you have with HHI meaningful? And how did this change after you brought art to the table?
SM: For us, supporting HHI is allowing for a memory of our son Ryan to remain with us. It's hard to describe, but it's having something tangible and joyful that came out of something painful. It is healing.
After starting the art program, I am now much more hands-on in a personally meaningful way with something I am passionate about and do well. Art is an arena where I can use my artist persona to connect and support people.