Student art display at Florida Hospital for Children lifts spirits

Sentinel School Zone

More than 300 pieces of aquatic artwork by students have turned a lobby at Florida Hospital for Children into a virtual sea for the past two weeks. The exhibit will be on display until Friday afternoon.

Students in grades two to five at Park Maitland School created an underwater themed art exhibit for the hospital's patients, families and staff to enjoy.

"Art has a tremendous impact on people. It's been amazing to watch people walk by and turn a frown into a smile. It's really been a joy and added some more warmth in the hospital," said Samantha Kearns-O'Lenick, the hospital's media relations director.

The 46-year-old Maitland private school had previously displayed art in the community, but on a much smaller scale. Art teacher Nicholas Wozniak approached several Park Maitland parents seeking venues, including Kearns-O'Lenick, who immediately expressed interest.

Students, guided by Wozniak and fellow art teacher Maggie Flavhan, created the work with an aquatic theme to match the undersea Disney play area nearby, Wozniak said. The children aimed to create brightly-colored works that could make people happy.

While mounting the art, dozens of people snapped cell phone pictures and asked about the student's techniques, Wozniak said. "That made me realize this was the perfect spot, the perfect area and the perfect idea."

Kearns-O'Lenick, who said the hospital would like to host similar displays again in the future, and see possibilities for community art displays at the SunRail station being built nearby.

"It sparked a whole new idea for us," she said.

Park Maitland serves about 625 students in PreK through sixth grade.

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