By Mia Brower
Outlook Valley Sun
Outlook Valley Sun
Anyone who has ever marveled at a painting, found respite in the words of an old song or the familiarity of a film knows that art has a way of returning them to parts of their lives, and themselves, they once thought were gone.
Disney producer, director and artist Don Hahn has been aboard this time travel machine throughout his career, watching pieces from his past projected onto screens around the world.
“It’s a diary entry,” Hahn said, reliving a recent trip to England through his painting of Beatrix Potter’s home, or retelling the making behind an animated film, from “Beauty and the Beast” to “The Lion King,” for both of which Hahn can be credited.
Even from his home in La Cañada Flintridge, Hahn remembers those seasons spent in the studio or at an easel. “I can look back on something years later and remember the scene,” he said. “It forces you to look more carefully at life. It forces you to see things.”
Whether filmmaking or drafting an art piece, Hahn always comes back to climbing the mountain of storytelling — finding what he calls “the core” of characters, seeking inspiration in nature and reaching for new ideas one day at a time. All to reflect a version of the world that may open another’s eyes.
“Hopefully, in doing that, it helps other people see things, look at it and be moved by it,” Hahn said. “That’s what the arts are about.”
Hahn’s passion for the arts can now be seen at the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, where he is exhibiting 25 paintings as part of the Healing Arts Program, joining other local artists who have showcased their work on the hospital’s walls since 2017.
At the exhibit’s special reception last week, more than 60 guests gathered to tour the galleries, filled with uplifting scenes. The typically white walls held frames with strokes of sundry skies, from fall colors to blankets of blue, wrinkled with valleys, stone paths and sycamore greens.
Hahn describes it as an honor to have his art displayed at the local hospital where he and his family have been treated for years. He started the collection last October, and plans to donate half the proceeds of pieces sold back to VHH. The location might be different from showcases he’s done before, but the meaning behind this one makes it all the more important, he noted.
“Can something like this bring some comfort to the staff, the employees, the patients, and help them remember that art like this can remind them of the greater world out there?” the artist said.
Sue Wilder, co-founder and chairwoman of the Healing Arts Committee, has asked the same question for the past six years. With studies showing that simply viewing artwork — particularly those reflecting images of nature — can help decrease stress and anxiety, distract from pain and promote a sense of comfort, Wilder and her co-founder, Julie Shadpa, set out in search of criteria for the styles of artwork that could benefit their community.
“It was a fun learning curve,” said Wilder. “You really looked at art in a different way, as to how it would be healing to someone. We realized that landscapes and waterscapes and familiar things would be most appropriate.”
After months of making contacts, the women selected their first artist, Vince Takas, who also happened to be part of the Healing Arts Committee. Before long, others were approaching them, excited about the opportunity for their work to be seen.
While exhibits rotate every six months, previous artists’ pieces are preserved through the program’s “Art Cart,” allowing patients and employees to keep prints of their own. Some situate the scenery to the hospital’s walls, others bring the landscapes to hang up at home.
“It really gives people a sense of place and familiarity in a situation where they’re hospitalized and many things are not familiar,” said Shadpa, an art therapist and administrator of more than 20 years. “We’ve gotten a resounding positive response since we started. Managers of units are saying, ‘Hey, can we have artwork in our treatment areas? Can we also have art on this wall?’”
“It’s really just a vote of confidence in a program that they believe in,” Hahn added, reflecting that the arts effort is a unique way to bring leavening to the present while connecting people to their past.
Hahn’s art will be on display through June 22.
First published in the April 13 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.