MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper Celebrates 10 Years with a Collaborative Art Project

MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper was eager to celebrate their 10-year partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, so they turned to a familiar source. 

Leadership at MD Anderson at Cooper was already connected to Twist Out Cancer CEO and Founder Jenna Benn Shersher through her husband, David, a thoracic surgeon at Cooper University Health Care. Inspired by the organization’s mission to share, connect and heal through the creative arts, the team at MD Anderson at Cooper wanted to extend that mission to their patients, visitors, and staff.

MD Anderson at Cooper got in touch with Jenna and immediately hit it off. They wanted to create an art piece to celebrate “A Decade of Healing” and would embody the power and beauty of their cancer community. Out of that conversation came the idea for a collaborative art project for cancer patients, visitors and team members. They would set up tables with painting supplies and wooden hexagons so visitors and team members could explore their feelings through creativity.   

“The project came out of the spirit of collaboration, community and different ways to express how cancer touches not just a patient’s life, but families, caregivers, doctors, and nurses,” said Katie Hardesty, a marketing specialist at Cooper. “There’s a ripple effect created when we interact with our patients and we wanted to create something to capture that.”


Putting everything in motion


The respective teams worked quickly to get the art supplies ordered, organized, and set up at the cancer center. Twist Out Cancer’s Twistshop Director Jacqueline Carmody arranged logistics from Chicago, hundreds of miles away from MD Anderson at Cooper in New Jersey.

“Jackie is amazing and made it happen even from across the country,” Katie said. “That was a testament to Twist Out Cancer’s commitment to the project. The organization can make things happen in a short amount of time and create something meaningful and beautiful out of nothing.”

The project spanned eight weeks and its inclusive nature was part of its success. 

“We told participants ‘It’s easy, you don’t have to be an artist, do whatever feels comfortable or natural,’” Katie said. “You give them a paint pen or brush and all of a sudden, they’re creating something beautiful.”

The partnership with Twist Out Cancer is just one of the many ways MD Anderson at Cooper is committed to excellence and care. 

“At larger health systems, it’s easy for a patient to feel like you’re in the system in some of these but I think our patients feel like we really do care,” Katie said. 

MD Anderson at Cooper also understands many visitors devote a significant parts of their days to receiving care, which is why patient and visitor experiences are crucial. 

“If you are getting daily or weekly treatments, and you travel to Philadelphia, to , cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, park—it could take up to three hours,” Katie said. “We are proud to offer residents of South Jersey cutting-edge, compassionate care close to home.”


The final result


When the artmaking portion of the project was complete, the MD Anderson team gathered the 400 tiles, representing 400 lives touched. The next step was determining how to display the hexagons.

“We went back and forth about making it one big piece, but then we’d have to hang it up high,” Katie said. “This is supposed to be something you get up close to so you can look at it and read it. Mounting the pieces at eye level will give more people a chance to see and interact with it.”

The solution was to create four pieces out of the tiles so one could hang at each of MD Anderson at Cooper’s four outpatient locations. 

As part of the project, MD Anderson at Cooper also hosted a Twistshop that was met with an incredible response.

“We opened it up to 30 people and it filled up instantly,” Katie said. “People were craving this kind of outlet. Even if they didn’t consider themselves artistic, our patients wanted to do something that wasn’t going to the hospital or doctor’s visit.”

The Twistshop also opened opportunities to create connections that may have not happened. “It was all about the participants talking and sharing stories—giving them the opportunity to connect with someone else, whether newly diagnosed or further along in their journey,” Katie said.

The experience was so well received, Katie said, that MD Anderson at Cooper is considering more art opportunities for its staff, patients and visitors.

“We tell our patients that ‘No one fights cancer alone’ and we want them to know they have an entire team with them on their cancer journey.”