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For Ronald McDonald House, art with a heart

When the doors to the city’s new Ronald McDonald house open in May, its walls will literally be filled with love.

Since June, Leslie Landsman has been collecting art for “All You Need is Love,” a display that is meant to bring a sense of happiness and love to the families staying at the home so they can be close to a hospitalized child.

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“I wanted something that would give people staying here a little bit of relief,” said Landsman, a Columbia resident who volunteers with Ronald McDonald House. “To think about something other than the challenges they’re facing; something bright, colorful and happy.”

Located around the world, Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a place to stay for families with children needing critical medical care at either no cost or for a minimal donation.

Currently located on West Lexington Street, RMNC Maryland has served more than 40,000 families from all over Maryland and the country since it opened in 1982.

The new facility at 1 Aisquith St. will more than double its occupancy, offering 99 guest rooms, gathering spaces, a meditation room, a teen room, classroom space, laundry facilities, a gym and numerous other facilities and services.

“We’ve been working on this for seven years,” said Sandy Pagnotti, president of RMHC Maryland. “Every time when i walk in, I can’t believe we are really doing this. It’s amazing.”

Most importantly, Pagnotti wants the new building to feel like a home.

“There are the bricks and mortar…but what are the things that will make this warm, loving and full of life?” Pagnotti said. “I really believe the house should be filled with beautiful and loving art.”

Landsman was the first person to come to mind for the project, Pagnotti said

A volunteer at the Baltimore House since her 2016 retirement from the National Aquarium, Landsman was the organizer behind Baltimore’s popular “Fish Out of Water” public art display in 2001.

“She took it over and reached out to artists all over the region,” Pagnotti said. “We were blown away by the response.”

A total of 140 artists from all around Maryland and 11 states, including Texas and Hawaii, were selected to be part of the “All You Need is Love” exhibit. Featuring various mediums including photography, watercolors, oil paintings, quilts, collages and quilling (a paper art) all of the pieces were donated with many artists donating multiple works for the collection.

“What’s been really special are the reasons why the artists sent pieces,” Pagnotti said. “A lot of them had personal connections.”

Jay Moore, a photographer based in Columbia, immediately thought of his Canadian Rocky photographs when he saw the request for art for the new facility.

“I go to these places to relax and heal from things,” Moore said. “To let go and have that relief from everyday life.”

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He even incorporated a heart into each of the vivid mountain photos that will be part of the collection.

“In that day and in that moment, it had that vibe. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to put that heart in,”Moore said. “Folks here are having a difficult time. I hope this inspires them to get to the next phase of their lives and maybe even go there and see it with their own eyes.”

While not required, Landsman requested artists who were creating a custom piece for the house to try and incorporate a heart into their work in order to create a scavenger hunt for the families staying at the facility.

“We were pretty excited about the response,” Landsman said. “There are hundreds of hearts. One piece has 37 hearts in it. I haven’t found all of the hearts yet.”

The request, she believes, helped artists realize that their piece was not going to be part of just another show.

“This is the house that love built,” Landsman said. “ A lot of artists said they really liked the idea.”

Now that all the art has been selected, the pieces are being matted and framed. Landsman and her committee will then figure out where to hang all the pieces in the new facility.

“This is not over yet,” Landsman said. “There is a still a lot of work to be done.”

While art may be featured in other RMCH, Pagnotti believes RMCH Maryland’s collection stands apart.

“I think it is a very unique project, especially the scale of art,” Pagnotti said. “ All of the artists donated their pieces. We have hundreds of them.”

“The quality and amount of art this house will have makes this Ronald McDonald house different than others,” Landsman agreed.

For Landsman, working on the project and volunteering at the RMCH Maryland makes her feel fortunate.

“I had a daughter with special needs. She passed away,” Landsman said. “It keeps me connected to my daughter. I feel closer to her being here helping families in similar situations.”

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