ArtPrize entry aims to bring awareness to congenital heart defects


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many entries in this year’s ArtPrize deal with personal issues, from bright spots in the artist lives to the challenges they face.

The colored pencil drawing piece “Behind the Smiles,” located inside First (Park) Congregational Church at 10 Park Place NE in Grand Rapids, is one of those pieces.

Artist Evelyn Mix’s work incorporates the emotions the mother of two from Hastings feels day in and day out.

Her 5-year-old son, Tate, is autistic. Mix’s 3-year-old daughter, Lydia, has congenital heart disease.

Lydia had two open heart surgeries by the time she was 4 months old.

“She has at least one more surgery that is scheduled hopefully around 5 years old. But she may require a heart transplant or more procedures on her heart to keep it going,” said Mix. “But she’s growing and she’s doing so well, despite all of the setbacks we’ve been having.”

“Behind the Smiles” is the first in a series of pieces Mix plans.

The work includes two flowers. The first is the mended heart lily, representing the heart of a child after surgery to repair it. The second is the bleeding heart flower, representing what Mix calls a parent pouring out their soul to the world.

Included in the work are words about the journey parents of children with congenital heart disease go through.

Fifty are negative words they try to bury below the surface.

“Because it is a lot for us the deal with, and it’s a lot for our kids to deal with. And we don’t like to see our kids in that situation,” said Mix.

But it also incorporates 100 positive words they share with the world.

“We like to talk about the victories. The good things that are happening. We also like to think about all of the good things that are going on. We don’t like to dwell on some of the dad things that might be happening,” said Mix, who hopes to promote awareness of congenital heart defects.

But her other goal is to reach out to parents with similar struggles to let them know they aren’t alone.

“There is still hope. Because there are some of us that have gone through this and our kids are shining, they’re growing. There’s hope out there for them,” said Mix.

Fifty percent of the auction price, along with half of any award money for “Behind the Smiles,” will go to the group Conquering Congenital Heart Disease, which offer supports to parents of children with the disease.

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