Ron Beahn understands what a positive impact it has on a young artist when he chooses a local youngster’s artwork to permanently display at Akron Children’s Hospital.
And, after 17 years as art consultant for the hospital, he understands how important it is for young patients to feel as comfortable as possible at the hospital, seeing artwork they can relate to that was created by their peers.
It’s been a labor of love for Beahn, a Green resident, as he’s selected thousands of student artworks from local schools during his tenure at the hospital. After working as the hospital’s longest-serving art consultant, he’s retiring this month and passing the torch to Jill Hazen, a retired special education teacher from Plain Local Schools who lives in North Canton.
“We both have the same philosophy that it’s about the kids,” Beahn said.
“I purchase the artwork with the patients that will be viewing it in mind. The artwork is meant to be something that they can relate to and hopefully feel a bit more comfortable during their stay at the hospital,” he said. “The art program is just one more way the hospital can be involved in the local community.”
Beahn has built up the hospital’s student art collection during a time of substantial growth for Akron Children’s Hospital, which includes the addition of its Beeghly hospital campus in Boardman in 2008 and a new Amherst regional health center in December. Student artwork adorns the walls at every Akron Children’s Hospital facility, including the main Akron hospital, 35 pediatrician office locations and 10 regional health centers.
Akron Children’s pays students for artwork
When students in kindergarten through 12th grade have their art chosen, they’re paid. Those in grade school receive a $25 gift card and high schoolers receive a $50 gift card. Each piece of student art is professionally framed and the work is accompanied by the student’s name plate, which includes their age, school and their personal comment about their art.
The art consultants work to display the student art in hospital facilities that serve specific school districts’ communities. More than 100 pieces of art usually go into a health center and 30 or 40 to a pediatricians’ office.
In late May, Beahn and Hazen walked through the first floor of the hospital’s Kay Jewelers Pavilion building, discussing a corridor of student artwork with a water theme. The pieces ranged from a lively water turtle watercolor to a painting of a little girl with an umbrella.
Beahn installed more than 300 art pieces from 58 schools in the seven-floor Kay Jewelers Pavilion building, which opened seven years ago.
He’s a watercolor artist who was director of the Boston Mills Artfest from 1995 to 2013. Beahn also formerly worked as art curator for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and owned Ron Beahn’s Custom Framing in Cuyahoga Falls, which he closed last year.
Beahn and Hazen, who have known each other for 35 years as artists, used to take painting classes together.
She’s enjoyed visiting numerous schools already, choosing art in late May from Highland Local Schools before they closed for the summer. Student art needs to be purchased that far in advance for a handful of winter hospital projects.
“We have a very small window to buy art,” Beahn explained.
‘Authentic art’ puts young patients at ease
In the hospital’s vision center in the Considine Building, student art of a cute giraffe watercolor graces a hallway. The artist, Kaiden Gerry of Coventry Middle School, who was in fifth grade when his art was selected, creatively described his work as “a cartoon/animated design for a comedian-style giraffe.”
Hazen’s mission is to carry out the same purpose that’s existed since the start of the hospital’s art program in 1993, which Beahn has so carefully focused on since 2005.
“When a patient comes in and a family comes in and sees authentic art, that tends to relax them a little bit. We want to stay true to that kind of purpose,” she said.
Beahn said Hazen checked all the boxes for the art consultant position, considering her passion for both art and children. Her art background is similar to his own and she also formerly owned a framing gallery in Hartville.
He told Hazen the art consultant job would be the perfect job for her and asked if she’d consider it. She realized it was the right position at the right time.
“It’d be art; it’d be going back into the schools,” said Hazen, who volunteered one day a week with special-needs students at Glenwood Intermediate after retiring last year.
Hazen’s been working with Beahn since February, when she took over contacting schools for art for the Akron Children’s Hospital urgent care in Warren as well as the Beeghly hospital campus. She’s loved traveling around the region, talking to teachers and seeing kids.
“The kindergarten art is so adorable. You can look at it all day long and just smile,” Hazen said.
In retirement, Beahn will be focusing on his painting career, planning painting excursions and tooling around in his new, gray C8 Corvette. He also plans to continue doing the framing for the Children’s art program.
He’ll always remember his work at the hospital as fulfilling.
“It’s grounded me as a human being in a lot of ways I didn’t know,” Beahn said.
Displaying young artists’ pieces ‘gives them a little boost’
Over the years, Beahn has made a point of asking teachers if any of their art students have been going through a rough time or have special needs. When those students are identified, he’s made sure to include their work in his purchases.
“By purchasing a special-needs child’s art, it does two things: Not only the hospital gets a piece of art but it does something special for that kid. It gives them a little boost,” he said.
About four years ago, that happened in Hazen’s school. One of her sixth-grade students who had suffered from abuse had his art purchased by Beahn for the hospital. Hazen organized a breakfast for all 12 of the students whose art was selected. She invited their parents, grandparents and Beahn, and decorated with a big congratulatory banner.
“I was so excited that my special-needs student got a piece of art purchased, I told Ron, ‘We have to celebrate this!’ ” Hazen said. “The parents wanted pictures of their child with the art with Ron. They were so proud.”
Arts and restaurant writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Children’s art consultant passes torch after 17 years buying kids’ art