New York Sun — December 8, 2006

Miami Beach–in all of the craziness of the Art Basel Miami Beach Art Fair, where money flows like champagne, a New York nonprofit found a way to do good work and get some publicity along the way.

RxArt, of 1 Astor place, arrived at the Holtz Children’s Hospital here to deliver 1,500 copies of its coloring book, Between the Lines,” featuring 56 drawings by contemporary artists such as John Baldessari, Jennifer Steinkamp, Tom Otterness, Neil Jenney, Jane Hammond, and R. Crumb. Ralph Lauren–the underwriter of the event and the book — hosted a party at the Miami store the night before to announce the project.

“We are offering the kids at the hospital a little bit of Art Basel,” the son of the designer, David Luaren, said.

New York children will soon get the same when RxArt distributes 15,000 copies to New York hospitals, including St. Luke’s roosevelt, St. Binvent’s, Mt Sinai, and Beth Isreal, in the coming week.

In Miami, the RxArt crew sat down with four children and helped them color in drawing with basic packs of Crayola crayons. Artist will cotton worked with Jonny Davis, 9, on a group of faces by Donald Baechler. “What you can do is, you can color in everything but the eyes,” Mr. Cotton said.    Board member Lisa Anastos was having a color contest with Sarai Vitalgaricia, 4. “Red!” Ms. Anastos said. “Yellow!” replied Miss Vitalgarcia.    Coloring did seem to raise the spirits of the hospitals patients. “They get their stress out. They forget the pain,” a child life assistant at the hospital, Ana Martinez, said.    “Getting lost in  coloring a pictures has real potential to take you outside yourself,” Mr. Cotton said.

The artist, who paints cakes and candies, contributed drawings of a ginger-bread house and a cake covered with lollipops. The string lines of Keith Haring’s work make it coloring-book-ready, and the chimpanzee in a tree in Alexis Rockman’s drawing looks like it could come from a disney coloring book.    But some of the content could raise some eyebrows. John Baldessari’s drawing shows a women on a bed. Neil Jenney’s drawing of hands and checkbook is labeled “Felon 2.”    Rxart, a four-year-old organization that hangs fine art in hospitals and does so with a budget of $400,00, spent a year gathering the art work. “If it’s something they don’t get, they’ll just pass by it,” the executive director of RxArt, Diane Brown, said. She added, “We did get some inappropriate work which we did not include.”

“There’s something for everyone here: figurative, architectural, and abstract. The more abstract would be better for older children,” an RxArt board member, Joanne Cassullo, said.    A parent of a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old, Belinda Neumann, said, “Nothing was shocking. But it might be too sophisticated for some kids, and too frustrating,” nothing the fine details and small coloring spaces in the drawing by Assume Vivid Astro Focus.

Some of the more complex images could in fact help children explore difficult feelings and thoughts. “Connecting drawing to the experiences of a particular child is often used to generate discussion and convey therapeutic messages,” the director of the Parenting Institute at the NYU Child Study Center, Richard Gallagher, said.

“All the children of the collectors of art are savvy, so they’ll appreciate it,” collector Barbara Lane, said. She added that she’d be glad to give it to her grandchildren, ages 6,5,4,3,2, and 1. “They’ve seen everything,” she said.    The book will be available at the RxArt Website and at select stores for $17. And that’s a whole lot cheaper for an Andy Warhol (whose drawings resembles a volcano) than the real thing: back a the fair, L&M Gallery sold its Marilyn Monroe series (all colored in) for around $1.5 million

  • – A.L. Gordon