Health

Sunday, May 18 2014 01:00 AM

Oh, the places they'll go! Dr. Seuss art to adorn children's hospital

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Cat That Changed The World is the title of one of the art pieces purchased from a grant by AERA Energy of Dr. Seuss paintings worth $100,000 that will hang on the walls of the children's wing at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's employee Jeff Morrison hangs one of the Dr. Seuss art pieces in the children's wing of the hospital. $100,000 worth of Dr. Seuss paintings will decorate the halls of the children's wing at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital thanks to a grant to buy art by AERA Energy.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's employee Jeff Morrison is busy hanging the Dr. Seuss art pieces in the children's wing of the hospital. $100,000 worth of Dr. Seuss paintings will decorate the halls of the children's wing at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital thanks to a grant to buy art by AERA Energy.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Clinging to her father's arm for support, Blanca Caballeros walked tentatively down a hallway in the Lauren Small Children's Medical Center at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

Blanca, 12, was a little unsteady two days after surgery for appendicitis, but she was also going slow to take in the framed art leaning on the walls of the pediatric wing where they would be hung later that day.

Friday was delivery day for $100,000 worth of Dr. Seuss serigraphs paid for with a gift from the Aera Energy Fund at the Kern Community Foundation.

"They're cool," Blanca said, her eyes gleaming even though she was pale and weak. "I've read all his books."

There are 38 pieces in the newly acquired collection of art by beloved children's book author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

In the past, local youngsters often had to leave Kern County to see pediatric specialists, typically going to Children's Hospital LA or Children's Hospital Central California Madera.

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital is trying to make more specialty services available in town. In 2012, it opened Lauren Small Children's Medical Center, a hospital within a hospital that includes a neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit and 20 pediatric beds.

Twenty-four Dr. Seuss serigraphs are now hanging there, but they'll be relocated when the center moves to a newer, larger pediatric wing now under construction. Scheduled to open in January, the new unit will be licensed for 35 beds.

Five more pictures were sent to the hospital's high-risk infant follow-up clinic. An outpatient services facility got another seven pieces, and two more went to the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center infusion center, which also treats pediatric patients.

Aera Energy has a long track record of supporting local medical initiatives, and was excited when the hospital asked for help purchasing the artwork, said Aera spokeswoman Susan Hersberger.

"This one really resonated with us," she said.

Jointly owned by Shell Oil and ExxonMobil, Aera is a Bakersfield-based oil and gas producer born from the 1997 consolidation of several business units.

"When we first came together in 1997, we were creating a new company, so we gave every employee a copy of the Dr. Seuss book 'Oh, the Places You'll Go.'

"To this day, when a new employee is hired, they get a little gift basket, and that book is in the gift basket."

The pieces are limited-edition serigraphs, or silkscreen reproductions. The Chinese invented silkscreening thousands of years ago to decorate pottery, but it's now widely used to adorn everything from canvases to T-shirts.

Some of the donated pieces are familiar figures from Dr. Seuss' famous books.

In "The Cat that Changed the World," the infamous Cat in the Hat stands with his left arm raised triumphantly.

"Earth-Friendly Lorax" is a series of four pictures of the moustached lorax gazing at the viewer from atop pastel-colored trees.

But the collection also has pieces from the so-called Secret Art of Dr. Seuss series of less familiar images. They include the likes of "Freebird," which depicts a lone orange bird with an extraordinarily long tail soaring over a volatile blue sea.

Although the donated Dr. Seuss pieces aren't originals, the silkscreens are highly coveted and collectible. Individual limited edition Dr. Seuss silkscreens routinely sell at auction for upwards of $1,000 apiece.

There's some inherent value in silkscreen art because the process of making it is tedious, but prices go way up if the artist is famous, especially if a piece is signed or part of a limited edition, said Richard Duardo, a master printer and managing director of Modern Multiples Fine Art Print Studios in Los Angeles.

"There are Andy Warhol silkscreens that have sold for millions," he said.

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's chief philanthropy officer, Sue Benham, was present as the pieces were delivered Friday and enjoyed seeing young patients smile and point as the pictures were placed in the hallways of Lauren Small.

"Usually when people make a donation it's for some innovative technology or something, so you don't get to see the reaction," Benham said. "This was great. Even the teenagers, their eyes just lit up."

Adults weren't immune, either.

Blanca's father, Victor Caballeros, said he was delighted to see the makeshift gallery taking shape as he escorted his daughter in loops around the halls.

"This is a really good thing," he said. "It was kind of boring before, but this really brightens it up in here. It's nice that they're doing this to cheer up the kids."

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