When Molly Petrucci created Heartbeats, she had no idea it would later grace a wall outside executive offices in the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center at Roswell Park. As a senior at City Honors High School in Buffalo, she completed the project for an art class that also encompassed painting, sketching and sculpture. Although she had taken another art class as a sophomore, “this was my first time doing needlework,” she says, “and I wanted to challenge myself to do something different.”
She settled on the human heart as her subject, but as she scrolled through images on the internet, she leaned away from “cartoonish” valentine drawings in favor of anatomically correct hearts with details of the intricate components: the arch of the aorta, the superior vena cava, the right auricle. She thought, Oh, that would be cool — an actual human heart.
She highlighted each of those features in contrasting colors. “I didn’t want it to be just reds and pinks and purples. I tried to even it out, so I added blues and greens and colors like that.” Below the heart, the same colors add interest to an electrocardiograph (EKG), the jagged line tracing the electrical activity of a heart.
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With the last stitch in place, Petrucci’s art teacher, Rebecca Moda-Lowinger, posted a photo of Heartbeats on Facebook, where it caught the attention of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Art Committee. Since the committee’s creation in 2001, its members have assembled a rich collection of more than 1,500 pieces — including sculpture, photos, paintings and fabric creations — to provide color, warmth and diversion throughout the hospital. Inspired by new talent in the community, the committee sometimes selects exceptional works by budding creative minds to be displayed alongside those of prominent established artists.
For Petrucci, the committee’s interest came out of the blue. “My teacher was the middleman,” she recalls. “She said, ‘Roswell wants to buy it from you!’”
Petrucci says someone close to her is a cancer survivor, so Roswell Park seems a fitting home for her needlework, connecting the beating heart that keeps us alive and the love that sustains us.
Molly Petrucci has just completed her freshman year at the State University of New York College at Geneseo, where she majors in psychology.