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Where Art Flourishes: Visual Art Essential At Children’s Home

October 16, 2011
By LINDA COMINS Life Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The creation of visual art has become integral to the program of treatment offered at the Children's Home of Wheeling.

Mary Ann Hearne, a Wheeling resident who served on the home's board for 40 years until her death in 2010, championed the facility's art program. In a fitting tribute, the art room at the home has been renamed the Hearne Creativity Center.

The art studio is located on the first floor of the home's residential building. Filled with art supplies, easels and tables for making crafts, the art room is a cheerful spot where the boys' art is displayed alongside prints of works by well-known artists.

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The boys' artwork also adorns the large sitting room of Kiger Hall in the residence on Orchard Road. In addition, the artistic talent of current and previous residents can be seen on two large murals - depicting scenes of Wheeling - being painted on the walls of the hall's living room area. Wheeling artist Joyce Schultze, who directs the art program, said the murals continue as works in progress because "I don't think a mural should ever be 'done.'"

Established as an orphanage in 1870 (with William Hearne I as a founding board member), the Children's Home is now licensed to serve up to 14 boys, ages 12-18, who have been orphaned or removed from their homes for various reasons. The behavioral health center provides court-ordered residential treatment for adolescent males who have been abused and/or neglected.

At a luncheon celebrating the rededication of the art studio, Louise Paree, the home's executive director, remarked, "Mary Ann (Hearne) is looking down ... She would give thanks ... Mary Ann is here with us today.

"Mary Ann was very supportive of Joyce (Schultze) and the art program," Paree said, noting that Hearne "encouraged the boys to make the art."

Opening the luncheon with prayer, the Rev. Richard L. Skaggs, assistant rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Wheeling, the Hearne family's parish, expressed thanks "for the work of the men and women in this place who care for children who have no one to care for them." Skaggs noted that those gathered were "thankful also for the work of Mary Ann Hearne who gave so generously of her time and resources so that the healing power of art could come to those so much in need of healing."

As an extension of the art program, Skaggs and Robert F. Troeger, organist-choirmaster of St. Matthew's, have talked to Children's Home residents about art, architecture and music. In addition, the boys have been invited to display their art in St. Matthew's parish hall during coffee hour at noon Sunday, Nov. 6, Skaggs said.

Present for the dedication of the art room in Hearne's memory were her son, Bill, and his wife, Sherry, of Wheeling and a grandson, Gary Hearne Maxwell.

"Mary Ann was so passionate about her love of the boys of the Children's Home," Sherry Hearne commented. "She was strongly commited to them having the opportunity to explore the creative arts."

Naming the art room in Hearne's memory is "truly a tribute to her lovingly encouraging the children here to pursue their art and their musical talent," her daughter-in-law remarked. "We are very proud. And her legacy will live on with this artwork."

Schultze commented, "I think of her (Hearne) so often. I see it every day in the faces of the boys, and they do appreciate the art room and the art program. Every day, this program continues to be a big part of the Children's Home of Wheeling."

Linda Wagenheim, president of the Children's Home of Wheeling board, observed, "Mary Ann strongly advocated for introducing our residents to the arts. She knew that very few young men enter treatment with professional instruction in sketching, painting, printing and airbrushing and that exposure to creative arts can be healing.

"Mary Ann purchased and displayed art pieces created by our boys and proudly displayed them in her home," Wagenheim added. "She was always pleased to learn that the boys were exhibiting at Artworks Around Town, Wheeling Artisan Center, Oglebay Institute Stifel Center and other art shows."

The board president said, "Through the Hearne Creativity Center and the wonderful memories that we all can share about her strong spirit and advocacy for abused and neglected youth in need of residential treatment, Mary Ann McKesson Hearne has left her legacy."

Hearne's legacy included 40 years of board service from 1970 until 2010, said Tom O'Connor, president of the Children's Home of Wheeling Foundation. She served on the Children's Home of Wheeling board, Orchard Park Resources board and the Children's Home of Wheeling Foundation.

"She was here when services were provided for both boys and girls, ages 6-12, when the care was later specialized for males only and even more specialized with the concentration on older boys, ages 12-18," O'Connor pointed out.

"No matter the gender or age, she was a strong voice on the board and an advocate for maintaining quality services for youth in our care," the foundation president said. "Even when Mary Ann was no longer able to attend board meetings, she stayed in phone contact with several board members and executive director Louise Paree."

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