The e-mail had reached me via the UAB Antarctica web site and was addressed from the Executive Director of the Foundation for Hospital Art. What could this be all about I wondered? Reading through the message it became evident that the director wanted to know if I might be willing to ask a group of people at Palmer Station to assist in painting one of seven panels for a very special painting that would ultimately be presented to the Mayor of New York on June 19th during the Olympic Torch Relay. The Mayor of New York would in turn present the painting to the Mayor of Athens, Greece, at the Olympic summer games. The seven panels of the painting would represent the seven continents of the world and the painting would be entitled “Hope Rising“. Ultimately the purpose of the painting would be to promote art as a means of healing in hospitals throughout the world.
While research and science support activities fill the days of all those here at Palmer Station, it was clear from reviewing the template that it would be quite manageable to complete the painting as an after-hours group activity. Thus, with the approval of Gerry Ness our Station Manager and officials from Raytheon Polar Services and the National Science Foundation, a collective of members of the Palmer community met one evening in the carpentry shop to paint. Exploring the recreation shelves in the warehouse, I had managed to dig up assorted acrylic and oil paints, along with a pretty good collection of paint brushes. One of our USF marine chemical ecology team members, Dan Martin, had figured out how to enlarge the prototype sent to us using a large professional printer we have on station. He was even able to size it to the requested dimensions and print a final template on glossy photographic paper. We were very fortunate that the acrylic and oil paints cooperated and adhered to this medium.
One of the more difficult features of our painting was the lettering at the bottom of the panel that read “Palmer Research Station, Antarctica”. The other six panels would include similar white block lettering that reflected their continents of origin and would include Paris, Seoul, Sidney, Cape Town, New York and Campinas. One of our UAB research team members, Maggie Amsler, assisted masterfully with this lettering, delicately using a small brush to paint the colorful backdrop behind the letters. Ildi Incze, our waste management expert, Danielli Spears, our cook, and Dan Weisblatt (“Sparky”), our electrician, painted their hearts out, while Sonja Wolter, the laboratory director, took periodic breaks from her brush to take photographs of the group working. Barb Watson, an instrument technician, recommended that we use “White Out” to hand paint the five doves rising skyward within our Palmer Station panel. It turned out to be just the ticket! We all kidded about the painting being sold at auction years many from now, with the auctioneer announcing “and this wonderful painting is a combination of oils, acrylics, and “White Out” on a canvas of photographic paper”!
David Koehlinger and Doug Forsyth (known fondly as “dog”), our station carpenter and station construction manager, respectively, assisted in affixing the finished painting into a wooden frame and taking digital photographs that were forwarded to the director of the Hospital Art Foundation. When all was said and done our entourage gathered outside one lunch hour to have their photograph taken surrounding the final painting, which will now accompany me across the Drake Passage to be forwarded on to the foundation director. In the end, this collective effort spoke to our hearts. And while those that remain here in Antarctica for the winter will not have the luxury of television to watch the Olympic summer games, they will know that a bit of themselves has found its way to Athens to join in this global enterprise of good faith and international sport. Most importantly, theirs will be a contribution to the spirit of healing.