JDRF Raises Money Through Art Workshop

Kim Benjet Health Guide
  • I had the privilege of attending a very special afternoon at Philadelphia’s Wexler Gallery  last week.   A dozen children ranging in age from 8 to 17 who live with type 1 diabetes and their families joined renowned glass artist, Nicole Chesney to create an original creation for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Philadelphia Promise Ball. 


    Chesney creates stunning glass paintings that often resemble serene expanses of sky or water. Her works are not literal depictions of nature, but rather abstract landscapes in which one can meditate on their own experience. Using mirrors as her canvas - a material that is literally reflective – Nicole is interested in the mirror as a vehicle for introspection, rather than superficial observation. 

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    How special that with this mirrored canvas Nicole will incorporate text for the first time -- quite an interesting concept for the glass collector to consider as this well known artist steps beyond her traditional technique. The words of children with diabetes describing themselves are Chesney’s prose.


     For this project the children were asked to write words or phrases that best describe who they are on the mirrored surface. Instead of being defined by their diabetes, this project focused on the many inner qualities and characteristics that make these children so beautiful and unique.  The words truly reflect the utter beauty, uniqueness and wisdom of these kids.


    The kids came up with fascinating words and short phrases. None of them described themselves as “diabetic” – because diabetes is the disease they live with, not who they truly are!  I was blown (excuse the glass term) away by the answers the kids gave . . . “beautiful, peaceful, a great soccer player, environmentalist, I love my friends, a talker, I love to make fashion designs, musical, always puts others before myself, fun, energetic.”


    The kids wrote directly on the glass with a sharpie marker. Chesney will then engrave over the text, remove the black marker and then create a painting over the etched glass.  Paint will collect in the etching and obscure some of the words and then she will reimpose the kid’s text on top of her painting.  The piece will measure 32 X 48 and will inspire any private or public art collection.


    I ‘m getting poetic now, but the a gallery’s abundant and fragile glass collection made me nervous at first – what if something broke while we were there?  Nothing did and I realized the glass is a metaphor for life with diabetes.  Glass in all its beauty is innately fragile. . at diagnosis our children with diabetes seem so, so fragile.  We can live with glass without it breaking and our kids with diabetes are not so fragile after all. They are resilient, strong and beautiful. They are everything etched on that mirrored panel and so much more.  They inspire beyond any disease or diagnosis.


    I hope the art piece sells for a lot of money to raise funds for research, but more than that I hope it finds a fitting home and inspires others.   


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    I’ll post a link when the piece is finished if you are interested in seeing it or bidding on it!  Watch the JDRF Philadelphia website to see pictures of the day and finished project at www.jdrf.org/philadelphia.


Published On: February 27, 2009