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A Blessing is Paid Forward Through Art and Love

Dianne PapasanA lifelong career as a dental hygienist wasn’t what prepared Dianne Papasan to be a curator of healing art. It was her broader life experiences that did that. 

Dianne was part of a team that curated the art for the new Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. And you could say that her current role, leading the careful selection of art for the Methodist Hospice Residence, has brought her full circle. For Dianne, there’s a strong link between art and the dying process. 

“After my father died, my way of healing was to do a large portrait of my mother,” she said. “My way of working through the grief was art.” 

Born in Corinth, MS, Dianne spent her adult life in Memphis and fell into her role as hospital art curator almost by accident. Her husband, Larry, had helped with fundraising for Le Bonheur and hospital President & CEO, Meri Armour, thought Dianne’s interest in art might be helpful. 

“She said, ‘Maybe you can help us.’ And that’s when she introduced me to Linda Hill.” 

Linda and Dianne worked long and hard to create a sense of place with the art at Le Bonheur. And the journey continued when Dianne agreed to gather art for the Hospice Residence. 

“I had to get my mind around hospice,” Dianne said. “My mother had hospice care at home. But the Residence was so different--it would be the patient's and family's home.” 

She made lists of adjectives she associated with hospice—words like hope, renewal, closure and joy—and she asked the staff to do the same. Those lists were at the heart of the commission requests that went out to a handful of artists. While the art that adorns the corridors and patient rooms of the Residence is a mix of commissioned and found works, some of the most striking pieces were requested from specific artists—artists like Leslie Baron, Matthew Hasty, Keith Bland and Yvonne Bobo. 

“Very giving artists,” Dianne says of the more than 20 artists represented in the facility. “They all got the message of healing art and gave us more than we could have asked in return.” 

The varied works are meant to appeal to all ages, to both men and women, to patients, families and to doctors and staff. The broad appeal, she says, mirrors the Methodist values of focusing on both patients and families and of providing care to any and everyone, regardless of ability to pay. 

Dianne says the reactions to the collection—doctors saying they are comforted by the pieces, artists weeping when they see their work hanging in the Residence and the countless families who are helped to heal—is humbling but still no surprise to her. 

“We now know that the healing effect of art is being measured,” she said. “I see Methodist going in a wonderful direction with this. I love everything about it. I feel very blessed.”