Many painters say that “the world is my canvas,” and fortunately for us Donna Swain has chosen windows throughout Akron Children’s Hospital as her canvas for many decades.
Each Christmas and Easter, the 86-year-old paints holiday cheer on windows in the 110-foot bridge walkway between the main hospital and the Locust Street building/parking deck.
She enthusiastically volunteers to paint 4-5 hours each day for about 2.5 weeks to create the festive murals. But Donna doesn’t do it alone. She recruited her husband, Paul, after he retired 23 years ago to mix the Tempera water-based paint and be her “gopher.”
She admits to being a strict boss. She wants everything done right and is thrilled that he stays in the lines when he paints the scene’s ground covering. Paul knows she’s the artist, and he’s privileged to earn brownie points with her by filling in the snowy or grassy areas.
Together, the Swains have donated more than 4,000 hours of their time on art projects around the hospital. She started volunteering her creative talents at Akron Children’s in 1978, when a fellow artist at the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center asked her to help.
The professional painter’s creations has adorned windows in patient rooms, hallways, waiting rooms, and for more than 25 years, a different holiday-themed mural has delighted passersby in the busy walkway twice a year.
“As we work, we love seeing children’s reactions to the art. That’s what keeps us coming back each day,” Donna said.
She has enjoyed drawing since age 3, but is worried her time painting big murals at Children’s might be nearing the end. “My spirit is willing, but my body says go home.”
She is looking for a replacement to carry on the tradition that children of all ages can enjoy.
“It’s a privilege to volunteer. People are fantastic,” said the Fairlawn resident. “We receive a whole lot more than we give.”
The Swain’s were profiled by Fox 8 on December 5, 2012:
To volunteer at Akron Children’s Hospital, call 330-543-8424. To volunteer at our Beeghly campus, call 330-746-8350. More information is also available here.