Most of us probably can’t imagine news more devastating than hearing that we or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, for millions of people, this fear has become a harsh reality; last year, in the United States alone, there were over 1.6 million new cases of cancer. It may be difficult to imagine how one could find hope in the midst of such devastation – unless you’re Dr. Christopher Perkins.

In 2007, Dr. Perkins founded the Art of Life Program with the hope of allowing all who have been touched by cancer to discover the art of life through creative expression to promote healing and hope. Dr. Perkins established this innovative approach out of his deep compassion for his patients and a desire for them to address their illness holistically. From its inception, Art of Life has been open to all cancer survivors in the Central Valley, regardless of their oncologist or treatment center. Art of Life provides a creative outlet for cancer survivors through painting, allowing them to tell their stories and process their journeys by expressing themselves with vivid colors and brushstrokes. In addition, survivors are connected to local artists to co-create works of art for public viewing in order to share their stories of triumph, hardship, and celebration with their communities. From these public exhibitions, the stories of healing and encouragement have resulted in life-giving transformation for participants.

“[The Art of Life Project is] an important step for everyone with a cancer diagnosis – to not just fight to survive, but to understand how cancer can offer each person new life in a very personal way[…] For many people, cancer can mean renewed life, and we want to communicate that through art.” – Dr. Christopher Perkins

In 2014, the Art of Life Program transformed into the Art of Life Cancer Foundation, an independent and certified non-profit organization. Today, Art of Life operates four programs: The Art of Life Program; the Paula Project, which allows past Art of Life participants to return annually to enjoy the healing arts; the Community Project, which brings together thousands in the community to rally behind cancer survivors in transforming ordinary materials into works of art as a testimony of love and support; and the Art of Life Healing Garden, developed in Fresno’s Woodward Park through collaboration with the City of Fresno, medical and art communities, local philanthropists, and eager volunteers. The Healing Garden is Art of Life’s most recent project, with construction kicking off in 2015 in three phases. Phase II began in 2016, and once completed, will see numerous additions to the Garden, including a donor wall, art kiosks, and an amphitheater, to name just a few. The most recent of the Phase II additions was a musical playscape unveiled on August 19th.

Enjoy this video about the Healing Garden and witness its groundbreaking in 2015. (Credit: Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

The addition of a musical playscape to the Healing Garden was made possible by a partnership with the Louis Gundelfinger Memorial Fund at the Central Valley Community Foundation and Dr. Praveen Buddiga of the Family Allergy Asthma Clinic. The playscape is a complete outdoor musical ensemble, designed for both children and adults to play music and enjoy. Four giant instruments, including a xylophone and drums, are encircled by colorful poles representing piano keys. Skillful assistance with installation of the instruments was provided by Garrett Elliott, a local Boy Scout who devoted 250 hours to the project. “I hope [the playscape is] a place of healing where people can learn to express themselves through music,” he said.

Check out some photos, as well as a video, of the musical playscape’s unveiling below!

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

(Photo Credit: The Art of Life Cancer Foundation)

To learn more about the Art of Life Cancer Foundation, please visit their website.

The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to partner with and support organizations like Art of Life. For more information on grant opportunities from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page of our website.