Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Comic book uses art to promote healing

 The College of Architecture + The Arts’ Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) will host Super Health Heroes, a community comic book coloring event that addresses the issue of childhood Type 1 diabetes, on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, is the result of a class project that won a grant from the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs Community.
The Valiant Quest to the Land of Equilibrium and Fun, the book at the center of comic book coloring event, was produced by FIU students in a class offered by the Art + Art History Department. Art students met with medical staff and child-life specialists at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (Miami Children’s Hospital) to gather information about type 1 diabetes, equipment, lifestyle and obstacles surrounding the condition. The information they gathered helped create the comic.

Former FIU student Eric LaMacchia, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at Miami Children’s Hospital at age 12, visited the community comic book class to share his story. He discussed his fears and mistakes. His visit led to a character based on him in the comic’s storyline. LaMacchia says he’s enthusiastic about the project and wants the students to know how much their care and attention to the disease meant to him.
The Valiant Quest to the Land of Equilibrium and Fun follows the first community comic coloring book, which focused on childhood cancer and was a collaboration between the FIU Honors CollegeArt + Art History students, and staff of Miami Children’s Hospital. Terrific Trio – Triumph of the Superheroes was published in 2012 through a grant provided by FIU CARTA’s Office of Engaged Teaching, Scholarship, and Creative Activities (ETSCA). The comic depicted patients of Miami Children’s Hospital as superheroes fighting villain cancers, and focused on the health obstacles the children face everyday.
“Artistically, the narrative for type 1 diabetes has turned out to be a more challenging condition than that for the first comic coloring book on cancer, because the villains and heroes were not as clearly delineated,” said Gretchen Scharnagl, an instructor in Honors College and College of Architecture + The Arts who teaches the community comic book class. “Blood sugar and insulin can be either hero or villain.”
Students solved this through the incorporation of alternative worlds. They a created the macro world of the hospital and its procedures and challenges; the micro world of talking fingers and heroic characters like Arthur, the blood glucose meter, Excalibur, the syringe, Lance, the lancing device; and the fantastical super micro-biological world of the inner body and bloodstream, where blood cell boats of blood sugars get overloaded, threatening to pluck all the oxygen until Insulin Jones comes to the rescue.
The story addresses normal, healthy lifestyles through acceptance and helpful strategies. Their goal was to help conquer discouragement, alleviate fears and address lifestyle changes head-on.
“This event will once again demonstrate the power of art to heal and become a map that helps the young patients find their way to the land of equilibrium and fun,” Scharnagl said.
“I hope the comic could help not just kids,” said FIU student Marienne Figueroabut, who helped to create the exhibiting comic book. “I hope it also helps to better educate parents, friends, teachers and others on a more understandable level, in a fun way.”
Another student from the comic book class, Melody Aleman, says she’s immensely happy to have taken the course.
“I’m so proud to have participated in something that has the potential to help so many. It’s cliché but true: knowledge is power. I hope this comic gives many children and parents battling diabetes the strength to push past their fears and thrive through it,” she adds.
The artists involved in The Valiant Quest to the Land of Equilibrium and Fun included: Melody Aleman, Cristie Alfonso, Jeremy Arocha, Ashley Bruce, Natalia Burgos, Arias Diaz, Kathleen Fernandez, Marienne Figueroa, Shawn Figueroa, Daniel Gutierrez, Alexandra Harari, Paul Iglesias, Bruno Maggi, Alex Maldonado, Holly McCoach, Dan Medina, Eduardo Paez, Justine Patnode, Melissa Pulido, Joey Requejo, Andres Restrepo, Santiago Restrepo, Solangel Rodriguez, Christian Spencer and James Toledo, Gretchen Scharnagl.
miami-dade_logo_colorThe MBUS comic event is supported by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council, the Mayor, and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. A grant from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs Community is helping with the printing of the comic books – and the crayons to be used at the event were donated by Jerry’s Artarama.
On Sept. 4, 400 printed comics and 400 boxes of crayons – courtesy of the FIU Chemistry Club – will be delivered to Niklaus Children’s Hospital for children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

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