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Kerrville State Hospital’s entry in the city’s 2019 Holiday Lighted Parade won Best Nonprofit Float for its creative and lively art history-inspired display, skillfully crafted by patients.
The hospital has participated in the communitywide event for the past seven years. With the help of art therapist Jaimie Peterson, patients developed a concept and began working on the artwork in September.
Inspired by showing their artwork in the Capitol this year, patients decided to pay homage to art history with large papier-mache art supplies and acrylic paintings depicting famous pieces with a holiday twist.
“It was such a cool challenge that encouraged teamwork among patients,” Peterson said. “And I can’t say enough about the maintenance staff, who were also very involved by helping us build our big, fun ideas.”
Maintenance staff used plywood to build the structure of the frames for the large paintings, while patients used cardboard and recycled materials like soda bottles and paper towel rolls to create the ornate look of each frame.
Patients made the structure of the papier-mache paint tubes by wadding up newspaper and tossing it into trash bags. Each Crayon was constructed by stacking seven coffee cans donated from staff throughout the hospital.
About 75 patients worked on the float this year, including a core group of 12 artists who rode on it during the highly anticipated unveiling at the Kerrville State Hospital campus the day before the main event. The next evening, nearly 100 entries, including floats, marching bands and Santa Claus on a firetruck paraded through downtown Kerrville.
After the parade, a local business owner reached out to hospital staff and asked if they could display one of the paintings in their business through the holiday season. Three more pieces found temporary homes in different businesses and Kerrville City Hall. Displayed with information about the hospital and the artists, the paintings will spread cheer and help shatter the stigma of mental illness.
A painting inspired by Bob Ross is staying on the hospital’s campus to be installed in front of the art studio with quotes from Ross surrounding it. Messages like, “I think there’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us” can encourage patients to keep creating while growing cognitively and emotionally.