Volunteer plans charity art exhibit to raise money for patients Volunteer and artist Jennell Watson is taking up the call to “pay if forward” using the founding principle of the Wings of Hope cancer fund. She will hold a charity art exhibit to benefit Gig Harbor patients and families from the MultiCare oncology clinic. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 27 at Obscurities Hair and Art Studio, 3006 Judson St. in Gig Harbor.
The fund started when former cancer patient Mike Backus found out nurses were helping pay for things from their own pockets to help patients. A summer event he held each year for friends became a charity event with the first Wings of Hope Bash in 2009. It raised money to help fellow clinic-goers ease the burdens for medical expenses.
“Numerous families are in need of financial support,” said Claudia Andersson, an oncology nurse at the MultiCare clinic at Gig Harbor. “The fund helps with gas, childcare, rent and medical expenses.”
Watson will have more than 50 pieces on display for sale, as well as a silent auction and raffle, and the majority of the proceeds will go to the Wings of Hope fund.
The unframed acrylic paintings Watson sells normally range from $120 to $400, depending on the size. She makes them 36 inches by 24 inches, or 11x18. Those who don’t choose to buy art will have an opportunity to donate as they see fit. The event will be catered by Susanne’s Bakery in Gig Harbor.
“I invite everyone to come to connect with old friends, relax, eat, have a glass of wine and, most of all, enjoy the art and party,” Watson said. “This exhibit is about finding a way to help the cancer patients I work with here in the harbor.”
Watson and her husband Jim have lived in Gig Harbor for the past five years, but she got her start when they lived in Vermont.
A friend kept asking her to go to an art class. She finally relented.
“I had been immersing myself in the Vermont culture, learning to spin wool, rug hooking,” Watson said. “I took an oil-painting class and decided it wasn’t so bad. It took a little time, but I realized I enjoyed it. I am mostly self-taught but have taken classes here and there.”
The Watsons returned to Gig Harbor to reconnect with family.
“When my husband and I went to Vermont, we thought the kids would follow, but they didn’t, so we came back,” Watson said.
She hadn’t painted since she moved because Watson didn’t have a place of her own to paint. Her husband recognized it was something Jennell needed to do as a creative outlet, so he built a studio above their garage, and she got back to painting on a daily basis.
Watson volunteers weekly with cancer patients in the Gig Harbor MultiCare Oncology clinic, and she’s a paraeducator for disabled students in all grades in the Peninsula School District.
“Volunteering completes my day,” she said. “Knowing I’ve done something for kids and patients gives me inspiration. It’s a way to give back and feel I’m is doing something worthwhile.
“We only get one life to live, and I want to make sure, at the end of the day, what I did mattered and made a difference in some small way.”
Andersson, the oncology nurse, has seen Watson in her capacity as a volunteer.
“Jenell is multifaceted. Amdersson said. “She works in the schools and volunteers here. She spends time talking with patients and is always so upbeat. Her being here allows for patients to relax, stay calm during their treatments.”
Watson says the tasks can be exhausting, both mentally and physically, as she feels really attached to patients and the kids. Painting allows her to let out stress.
Watson asked to display a piece of art at the clinic that she now changes weekly. Some patients enjoy critiquing her art. They aren’t shy about telling her whether they like it or not.
“It offers a conversation starter for patients if they want,” Watson said. “We can talk about art and take their mind off the treatment sessions.”
“Patients like her art,” Andersson said. “They notice and love how it changes. She’s a sweet lady. The Wings of Hope is great in that it can allocate fund to patients, and it’s a way to ease the trauma of cancer.”
Watson has art hanging around Gig Harbor in a number of places, including pieces at Susanne’s Bakery, Cutters Point, Studio 6 Hair Salon and Obscurities Hair and Art Studio, where she will host her benefit auction and exhibit. When one piece sells, she puts up another from her studio.
Watson made the transition to acrylics as her medium because she can complete a painting much faster than she can with oil paints.
One of Watson’s favorite pieces of art is an unnamed impressionistic horse done in rustic colors.
“It seems like me put into a painting,” she said. “It has energy, power and spirit.”
Another is titled “Tao.”
“It’s funky and fun,” she said. “It’s of an African boy. I incorporated real lace into the painting. It was inspirational.”
Watson is excited about another unique artform she will have at the event.
“I am felting raw wool and transforming it into tapestries,” she said.
She presses and rolls the raw wool when it is wet.
“It’s hands-on and a challenging process, as it’s time-sensitive,” she said. “I’m thrilled with the result.”
One piece will include a tribute to the sheep that donated the wool titled “Shirley, Mercy and Goodness.”
Watson said she “paints to express what is meaningful with a primary aim to bring a touch of happiness to those who view my paintings.”
She hopes her benefit is successful.
“The exhibit isn’t about me,” she said. “It’s for Wings of Hope and the people it will help.”
For more information about the exhibit, call 253-857-6666.Lifestyles coordinator Kim Eibel can be reached at 253-358-4152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_kim.