Mary Lisa Kitakis-Spano became an artist in residence at Shands just after the inception of the Arts in Medicine program in 1990. As the Visual Arts coordinator, she purchases materials and oversees visual artists and volunteers who bring the creative arts to patients, families and staff through painting, drawing, collage, ceramics and crafts.
Mary Lisa also works with pediatrics for the annual Children’s Miracle Network arts auction and organizes the event along with other Arts in Medicine team members and volunteers.
Mary Lisa’s original artwork is featured throughout the hospital. Her mosaics are displayed at the entrance to the Emergency Room in the Cancer Hospital and on pediatric levels three, four and ten in Shands Hospital’s North Tower.
She is currently at work on a large-scale mosaic that will welcome patients from around the world to the Gainesville community. The piece will be installed in the North Tower outside the 4th floor atrium elevators. It will depict Florida—from its Gulf coast to its east coast shores—incorporating maps, compasses, wetlands, horse farms, orange groves, springs, oceans, and beaches.
Why Arts in Medicine?
“When I was invited to Shands, I did not know I would be receiving the invitation to fall in love with my life, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Helen Welsh, a nurse manager, thought one of her patients could use a visit by an artist and she chose me. Helen introduced me to pediatric oncologist Dr. Graham-Pole, the Arts in Medicine program, and my first little patient. My life was forever changed. Together we painted t-shirts and pillowcases, painted pictures, made up stories, and danced; sometimes we just sat real close not saying anything. We made art, and I watched her go through the experience of a bone marrow transplant, her brush with death and rescue. I was supported by the transplant care team, the physicians, the artists in residence and her family. When I reflect on my experience as an artist-in-residence I see how the creative arts invite us to experience and give the best of who we are, to share and receive the best of others and to fall deeply in love with our lives.”