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“Make Your Mark” — Collaborative Art in the New Building


De Paul Treatment Centers / Fora Health’s new treatment center in SE Portland’s Gateway District was designed through a patient-centered lens. We recently expanded this approach to include our plans for art in the new building, teaming up with former Board Member and renowned urban designer Suenn Ho to fill our new space with creations by and for the De Paul / Fora Health community.

From the intuitive layout to the color scheme, Holst Architecture kept patients at the center of our new building’s design by using 6 trauma-informed principles: Coherency; Comfort; De-Escalation; Empowerment; Nature; and Safety. This approach mirrors our care philosophy, delivering programs and services that are patient centered, culturally responsive, and trauma informed. As we enter the final stages of construction, we have an opportunity to tie that same patient-centered philosophy into the facility’s finishing touches, engaging patients and staff directly in the creation of art for the new building.

This initiative is the inspiration of the aforementioned Suenn Ho, a professor of architecture who has designed a broad spectrum of projects, bringing her multi-cultural influences to art and design. Suenn is an expert in master planning, urban design, landscape architecture, and custom-designed art pieces. Through conversations with De Paul, Suenn began to realize an opportunity to create artwork that invites community participation and reflects our philosophy of patient empowerment and connection.

The planned project engages patients, staff, and board members to create small drawings that are a reaction to prompt words frequently associated with recovery and transformation. Suenn expects that the outcomes will be as varied as the people who participate, with some pieces being representational and others abstract. Whatever the design, participants will be invited to tap into their inner creativity and “make their mark.” By drawing everyone in, Suenn sees this project as a way to bring the De Paul family together and create communal art that has real meaning. In the planning process, Suenn drew inspiration from her undergraduate architecture students, who often claim that they cannot draw, to which Suenn responds “you’ve been drawing since you were two!”.

In this process there will be no mistakes and few directions – Suenn’s ultimate goal is to elicit emotional responses that speak to the individual’s lived experiences. After the individual pieces are collected, they will be preserved as unique works of art, as well as scanned into software and woven into patterns reminiscent of fabric. These patterns will be turned into large-scale pieces that will be permanently incorporated into the building’s interior decor.

Suenn believes it’s her duty as an artist to create space for people who don’t see themselves as creators. In fact, Suenn was first introduced to De Paul when she attended an “Art of Recovery” event at J. Pepin Art Gallery featuring professional and amateur artists side-by-side. She appreciated how powerful it can be for a novice artist to have their work elevated to the same level as a professional, both for the artist and for the observer. Suenn knows that we all benefit by expanding our definition of art and creating inclusive spaces for self-expression. This belief reflects that of De Paul / Fora Health, and we are so excited to partner with Suenn in filling our space with an artistic message of inclusion, perseverance, and triumph.

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