A patient (left) at NC Children's Hospital help Rachel Howard with one of her window paintings.
A patient (left) at NC Children’s Hospital help Rachel Howard with one of her window paintings.

Rachel Howard, a research technician at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, is blanketing the North Carolina Children’s Hospital with holiday spirit one window at a time.

Howard is painting wintry scenes for children at NC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. She calls her project Paint with Purpose and plans to decorate 72 windows in the hospital, which include all the individual children’s rooms on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors along with the pediatric playroom.

“It’s been very interactive,” Howard said. “I have enjoyed taking requests from the kids, and sometimes they, too, like to grab a brush and help out. The parents told me that the kids have been having fun riding toys around and pointing out different characters. One of the mothers of a girl I painted with told me, ‘I haven’t seen that smile on my daughter’s face in a long time.’”

Howard met with the volunteer services director and nursing managers from each floor to plan the project. She’s also getting suggestions from the children, which has resulted in princesses, superheroes and sports teams being featured on individual windows.

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Rachel Howard’s paintings adorn the railings of the Genetic Medicine Building

Howard graduated from UNC this past year with a degree in nutrition from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and minors in studio art and chemistry. She is a research technician in the Center for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. She works in the lab of Tim Wiltshire, Ph.D., director of the center.

“Throughout undergrad, I thoroughly enjoyed pursuing both science and art and finding intersections between the two fields,” Howard said. “I wanted to continue exploring and creating art; but rather than a side business, I wanted to find a more meaningful and impactful way I could create art and give back to the community.”

Howard also painted three murals in the Genetic Medicine Building and two in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and asked only for help from faculty and staff in covering the cost of supplies for the project at NC Children’s Hospital. She said she received enough support to pay for everything she needed.

In addition to painting for the children, Howard will also be handing out art supplies to the children the week of Christmas. She bought 26 boxes of Crayola 64-Count Crayons with the commission she received from a window she painted on Franklin Street. Super Target of Durham found out about the project and donated an additional 46 boxes of crayons to make sure every child gets a box on each floor.

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Rachel Howard added characters from the movie Frozen to a patient’s window at NC Children’s Hospital.

“I truly believe making your own art can be very fun and therapeutic, no matter the skill level,” she said. “I am beyond grateful for all the support and encouragement from UNC that made Paint with Purpose possible. I truly owe a tremendous thank you to Dr. Tim Wiltshire. When he learned I was passionate about art, he encouraged me to continue exploring and pursuing art along with research.”

More of Howard’s work can be found at www.artbyrachelhoward.com. She said she hopes to start medical school in 2018.

See more of Rachel’s winter scenes at UNC on Facebook.

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