Community art beautifies Scleroderma Center

January 17, 2020 by Renee Fischer

Patient Randi Pupkin leads effort to create nine mosaics

As the founder and executive director of Art With a Heart, Randi Pupkin has dedicated her career to enhancing the lives of people in need through visual art.

The non-profit organization has many areas of impact, from teaching art classes in schools, shelters, and community centers; to arts-related youth programs and jobs training; a retail art store; and the creation of large-scale, public art installations around Baltimore City.

Pupkin’s most recent project hits even closer to her heart: beautifying the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center by working with her team of staff and volunteers to create nine mosaics, one for each treatment room.

“They’re all going to include hands and flowers because hands are the number one, telltale sign with scleroderma,” according to Pupkin, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2013.

Scleroderma is a rare autoimmune disease where the body produces too much collagen that hardens and stiffens different areas in the body, including the skin.

“It can affect other systems such as the heart, the lung, the GI track, even the kidney,” says Fredrick Wigley, MD, the director of the center. “Without treatment, it’s a multi-system disease that can shorten one’s life unfortunately.”

During her treatment of immune-suppressing drugs, a secondary infection led to Pupkin’s own lung capacity diminishing to 63 percent, before her health eventually took an upturn.

“The good response to medication, the positive outcome, and, frankly, recovery that she’s had has inspired her to help others to understand that when this disease hits them, it’s not inevitably a downhill outcome,” Wigley says. “So, like the mosaic, it’s a positive spin on a tough situation.”

“We just wanted it to say something beautiful to the people who are waiting in each of these treatment rooms,” says Pupkin, adding the materials for the mosaics were donated by the family of fellow patient Judy Kolker, in her memory.

“And the treatment I got from Dr. Wigley and Johns Hopkins – you can’t compare it to anything,” Pupkin says. “Dr. Wigley is the most stellar human being and the best physician I’ve ever known in my life. I’m humbled by him.”

“I’ve been put on this earth to cure scleroderma,” says Wigley, adding because it’s an uncommon disease it can be more difficult to secure the research funds essential for discovering new treatments and an ultimate cure.

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Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health