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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Patients' Artwork Brings Life to Clinic

August 28, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

The posters of paintings, sculptures and photographs that adorn the walls of 5P21 make up an aptly named exhibit called "Transitions."

When County-USC Medical Center's HIV outpatient services building is dismantled soon to make way for a new hospital, the original artworks by patients and others whose lives have been affected by AIDS will be displayed again when the new clinic opens next year at Mission Road and Zonal Avenue.

In the past year, 5P21 has become a virtual art gallery. As many as 250 pieces, many of them from the clinic's patients, grace its corridors, offices, conference and waiting rooms.

"This is important for people who are (infected) with AIDS," said R. D. Riccoboni, 35, who has shown his paintings at the clinic. "When an artist creates, there is no disease."

The project, started by patient and volunteer Roger D. Arthur, who died Aug. 2, brought life to the clinic's stark walls and discovered artists among some of the patients. Many of the children, some as young as 5, now consider themselves artists as well.

The art itself has been therapeutic for patients who have discovered an artistic vein. "I'm going on the eighth year with HIV without developing any symptoms" of AIDS, said Steve Monroe, 38. "And I can attribute that directly to the art."

Monroe was a patient of 5P21 when it was on the fifth floor of General Hospital and recording 2,500 patient-visits a month. But in July, 1991, the outpatient clinic was opened as the number of patients increased, now to the point that the number of patient-visits has doubled.

Not only have the original works brightened the clinic, but they have also drawn people there who ordinarily would not have come in, according to members of the Roger D. Arthur 5P21 Art Coalition, coordinator of the exhibits. Visitors see the place as friendly, members said, and some have come in for HIV testing after viewing the art.

The fastest-growing group of people with AIDS are Latinos, who make up half of the clinic's patients, said Thomas P. Licari, 45, one of the clinic's volunteer workers. More troubling is that about 60% of the new patients are entering the clinic with full-blown AIDS.

"We have to be willing to look at . . . educating people in a way that's never been done before," said Bonnie Stover, the clinic's volunteer programs coordinator.

This year, coalition members, under a $50,000 grant from the Los Angeles Unified School District, will take their art to the schools and let students meet the artists and learn more about their works and the disease.

The art effort has become a model at Midway Hospital in the Fairfax area, and other clinics and hospitals, Riccoboni said. "We started our own arts movement, really," he said. "This is a great thing for Los Angeles and part of its healing. This is one of the small little threads that is pulling the community together."

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