Abbie-Rose's journey comes full circle through art

Abbie-Rose was just four-years-old when she became a patient at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Hit by a Ute while out Christmas light looking, she suffered a fractured skull but incredibly avoided serious injury.

Almost a decade later, Abbie-Rose's affiliation with the Hospital has come full circle. Her artwork, Tea Time, has been selected as one of 50 finalists for the Operation Art Touring Exhibition, and is soon set to adorn the walls of the Hospital to help lift the spirits of other kids like her during their stay.

Operation Art is an initiative of CHW in association with the Department of Education and supported by the Art Gallery of NSW that encourages school students from Kindergarten to Year 10 to create artworks for sick kids in hospital

Abbie’s artwork, and 49 others, were carefully selected as finalists from more than 700 artworks entered from 211 NSW schools into last year’s Operation Art Exhibition.

From today, the finalists will have their works displayed in a prestigious exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. The artworks will then commence a year-round tour of regional art galleries in NSW before becoming part of the permanent art collection at CHW.

As a former patient of the Hospital, Winmalee High School student Abbie-Rose said she was excited to have her artwork Tea Time displayed in its collection.

“It is a very special thing to be given the chance to brighten someone’s day with art and creativity,” Abbie-Rose said.

“My painting depicts a funky-looking rooster having a jolly time drinking tea. I love it because you can look at it for a while to try figure out what’s going on. It’s a little chaotic but so much fun.

“I chose this because it’s just a funny, happy, and joyful image that I can only hope might make a kid a little happier – even when they’re in hospital. If it makes just one person smile, I think I did my job.”

And that she did. Abbie-Rose’s artwork won the Curator’s Award (Senior), selected by Ivy Baddock, Art Curator at CHW. Nine-year-old artist, Sam Gilfillan from Bundeena Public School, was also recognised in the junior category for his artwork titled Still Life Fruit.

“I feel so honoured to receive this award. There are so many artworks by kids from across NSW that blew me away, so to be chosen for this award means a lot to me,” Abbie-Rose said.

This year’s Operation Art program also saw the introduction of the Danny Eastwood Indigenous Art Award, which celebrates the wonderful artwork produced by students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Danny Eastwood judged the award in his namesake and chose the award that appealed the most to him, a painting titled All The Emotions by Year 5 student Kiara LeBrocque from Hamilton North Public School.

Shenandoah Spring, a Year 11 student from Dubbo School of Distance Education, received the Outstanding Teacher and Student Award for her detailed drawing of The Rescue Brumby.

Ivy Baddock, Art Curator at CHW, said the artworks in this year’s exhibition not only display an array of talent, but also evoke messages of hope in what has been a difficult period for students and the wider community through COVID-19.

“Operation Art is all about students reflecting on what helps them feel positive and use that insight to create an artwork which, hopefully, helps other children by brightening their stay in hospital,” she said.

“What stood out to me about this year’s exhibition was the empathy students feel for others. Everyone has had their lives disrupted to some degree by the ongoing pandemic, but our children and young people are responding by engaging with their artmaking and telling stories of positivity and hope.”

The Operation Art Touring Exhibition will be on display at the Art Gallery of NSW from Wednesday 15 March – Sunday 27 March. Entry is free.