Staff at nonprofits across Hillsboro have been coming together at a distance recently to draw colorful signs showing one word — “Love.”
The signs are now displayed on fences near four Hillsboro schools and at Hare Field and they’ll continue to appear through October at two more schools and the Hillsboro Family Resource Center.
It’s part of a fundraising project called “LOVE on the FENCE,” which is led by the Hillsboro-based consulting business AgeCelebration and sponsored by eight local businesses.
Cindy Cosenzo, director of AgeCelebration, says the project aims to spread love in Hillsboro communities during difficult times, raise money for nonprofits impacted by the pandemic and “(remind) each of us that love is always on the fence.”
“When any two humans are interacting, depending on how things go, we can decide if we’re going to respond to life and to each other with love or not,” Cosenzo said. “It’s a moment-to-moment decision — it’s always sitting there on the fence.”
Cosenzo is asking anyone who passes by the signs and feels affected by the positive messaging to donate to the nonprofits who created the signs. People can also create their own signs, put them up and post photos on social media.
Local artist Elizabeth Higgins partnered with Cosenzo for the project, designing the outline of the word “Love” that appears on all the signs, which people can download.
When nonprofit staff come together to draw, she encourages them to use the time to express themselves because she knows people might not have a lot of time to make art these days. She says creating art and group art projects can be therapeutic.
“It’s the same thing when I teach my painting classes, people don’t like to draw necessarily, they just want to paint, they just want to express themselves with color,” Higgins said. “This is giving people the chance to do that, just express yourself without having to think too much.”
On Oct. 8, members of the Hillsboro Hops front office staff gathered outside the Peter Boscow Conference Center to create signs for the project hoping to raise donations for the Hillsboro Hops Fund, which seeks to support youth through education and sports activities.
Coloring her sign with Hops-themed art, Jen Anderson, senior director of fan experience for the minor league baseball team, said she and her colleagues wanted to get involved in the project because youth sports have dramatically reduced during the pandemic.
“With everything going on, with us not having a season, it’s been hard to figure out how we can help, but something like this came along where we can come together as a team and contribute,” Anderson said, adding that when youth sports fully return to normal, they’ll be more needed than ever.
She said the event was a great way for Hops staff to reconnect after mostly only seeing each other over digital meetings for months and discover who had secret artistic talents. The Hops’ season was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ‘Shine On’ cards will be delivered to workers at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro.
Cards created by Elizabeth M. Higgins Teaching Artist in Hillsboro Oregon. Picture features blue and pink greeting cards featuring yellow sun painted in watercolor paint. Blue card reads “shine on”, pink Card reads “You Shine.”
If you drive around Washington County, then you may see bright signs outside of hospitals saying, “Heroes work here.”
Local artist Elizabeth Higgins is hoping to bring that same message inside — directly to frontline workers at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro. Higgins created handmade watercolor “Shine On” cards for emergency room and critical care workers coming off shift. To avoid production delays, the artist carved out a custom-made rubber stamp, so each card looks like an individual painting.
“Each one is like a real piece of art,” Higgins explained. “This way, people can support me as an artist, but then give this nice and thoughtful gift of a handwritten note on a handmade card to somebody who’s working really hard these days.”
Higgins didn’t get the idea all on her own. Cindy Cosenzo, owner of Hillsboro-based consulting business Age Celebration, said she remembered seeing Higgins’ art before the pandemic and immediately thought it would be perfect as a way to reach out to people on the front lines of the outbreak.
“We have so many beautiful people and so many beautiful artists in Hillsboro,” said Cosenzo. “Elizabeth is just one of them but has such a shining light.”
People can buy four cards for $15 on Higgins’ Etsy website, write a note inside and follow special instructions to mail them to critical care workers. So far, 80 colorful cards have been sold, said Cosenzo. She held back tears as she described people’s generosity. Cosenzo and Higgins did their best to be sure the cards are affordable for those willing to help during economic uncertainty, she added.
As for Tuality, hospital officials are happy to see support for healthcare providers.
“The outpouring of the community has made our healthcare workers know that they are appreciated, and people are looking at them as the true heroes that they are,” said OHSU Tuality Healthcare Foundation manager Maria McCandless.
The “Shine On” cards are sent to specific departments and then handed out by nurse managers, said McCandless. She hopes people continue to support frontline workers and artists in the area.
“That’s a true testament of people caring about their community,” added McCandless.
Despite losing income to the virus, Higgins said the project has made her feel proud of the community she lives in.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have bought card packs or working on them,” she said. “It makes me happy to live in this community and just reinforces my love of living in a community that supports the arts, but also just the caring and the friendship.”
Pictured above is Elizabeth M. Higgins, teaching artist located in Hillsboro Oregon in front of her original artwork. Photography by local photographer Aaron Andersen.
Covid’s icy grip was wrapped tight around Main Street in downtown Hillsboro tonight. Looking up at the old Morgan and Bailey building did not help much as a freezing mist enveloped the grand old structure’s upper roofline and ancient details. We are two days into the second statewide shutdown of our restaurants and the Main Street nightlife and human activity have come to a standstill. Heading West up the sidewalk to the old county courthouse only seemed to encourage the darkness and the cold; an about-face quickly followed.
Making the turn worked out to be fortuitous for a second story light seemed to pour warmth into the abyss- like a lighthouse beacon crossing the coastal veil. Through that window shone the brightness of a bigtime Hillsboro talent. One of the pandemic’s worst enemies was working in her studio and knowing that eased Covid’s grip.
Hillsboro artist Elizabeth Higgins is a force to be reckoned with. Her art and her teaching have been shining throughout this long difficult year. There are many quotes about the healing power of art and most of them apply to the current situation we find ourselves in.
“We are in a time once again where our need for the arts is growing more and more apparent. Controversy and anger and fear seem to swirl around us these days in large supply. This has happened plenty of times in our history. We have needed and sought the healing and teaching power of the arts for a long time, perhaps forever.” ~ Robert Lynch, President and CEO, Americans For The Arts
“The arts are a critical component of healthcare. Expressive art is a tool to explore, develop and practice creativity as a means to wellness.” ~ Wellarts Association
Since moving into her art studio in downtown Hillsboro last July, watercolor artist Elizabeth Higgins has been developing her toolbox as an art instructor who approaches art as wellness. Elizabeth’s passion for teaching centers around her belief that all of us have a creative voice within ourselves that needs to be recognized and celebrated. She loves to nurture artists of all ages along their paths of self-expression and creative discovery. As a teacher, Elizabeth encourages others to have fun creating, being open to possibilities, and being confident in their own creative expression. She is always inspired when teaching young children, who are unfettered by judgment or thoughts of what makes art “good” or “right.” This is the outlook she strives to share with all of her students, regardless of age or ability.
During COVID, Elizabeth has been teaching watercolor and nature journaling classes on-line via Zoom, through various cultural organizations such as the Walter’s Cultural Arts Center, Hoyt Arboretum, and for her own following of students. Her experience teaching during this time has reinforced her belief in the power of creative expression. For Elizabeth, art is absolutely crucial to her well-being and sense of purpose. Through her weekly nature journaling classes – which are focused on mindfulness, being in the moment, turning off the inner critic, and just letting go – she has helped many students cope with these challenging times’ difficult emotions and stress. Creating and encouraging others to discover their own creativity is a way for her to fill her life with hope, joy, and optimism, a way in which to serve and help others. Creative expression is scientifically known to be a readily-accessible way in which to pump up our brains with feel-good chemicals.
Elizabeth has lived in Hillsboro since 1999 and has dreamed for many years of having her own working artist’s studio in the downtown core. Her studio and classroom are located in the old Crown Plaza building on the corner of 2nd and Main (205 E. Main St). A complete list of her classes can be found on her website at www.elizabethmhiggins.com/classes She is available for teaching and speaking about mindfulness-based art instruction for individuals, groups, classrooms, and corporations. Elizabeth’s artwork can be viewed on her website and social media and in her studio by appointment and at Catherine Bede Gallery, also in historic downtown Hillsboro.
Art is the Yin to Covid’s Yang. And Elizabeth Higgin’s is leading the way