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Artist’s work brings hope and fun to hospital

"Dwane has a true gift, and he shares it … with sick kids, with churches"

Dwane Beckhart has a passion for two things: painting and serving his community.

For the past seven years, Beckhart has painted wagons for kids and families at Norton Children’s Hospital. His paintings feature cartoon characters, intricate landscapes from books and movies, and more. Each wagon tells a different story: some are memorial wagons painted in honor of patients who have passed away and others are tiny, colorful masterpieces that bring a burst of magic to the hospital.

Beckhart has painted more than 20 wagons with scenes covering everything from Hogwarts castle in Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss. His paintings are inspired by children’s interests, so Beckhart uses books, puzzles, posters, stickers and a host of other fun items for inspiration.

“Painting a wagon isn’t easy,” Beckhart said. “There are lots of different surfaces and gaps, unlike a flat canvas. But I do it for the kids.”

Beckhart has painted just about everything under the sun and shares his talents throughout Louisville. He has painted murals inside of churches, on the bottom of a pool, on stones in East Louisville, on fences, saws and other items. He has done a lot of artwork for his church and for Greathouse Shryock Traditional Elementary School.

He also has painted canvases and other items for the annual Snow Ball fundraising event, pediatrician offices and more at Norton Children’s Hospital.

“Dwane has a true gift, and he shares it … with sick kids, with churches,” said Keenan Beckhart, Dwane’s niece. “He truly is benevolent.”

The families who have received memorial wagons for their children are moved by Beckhart’s talent.

“I am touched beyond words,” said Kathleen Kohntopp of Atlanta, Georgia. “The artist captured my daughter’s spirit and vitality.”

Another family remarked how it’s a new and creative way of remembering their loved one.

Beckhart estimates that painting each wagon takes 25 to 30 hours. His work brightens the hospital with intricate brushstrokes and colors reminiscent of Thomas Kinkade and Disney animation, two of his biggest inspirations. Not only can art bring a sense of calmness and relief to a hospital setting, it also is a way for Beckhart to give back to the community.

“Art gives me a way to express myself and do something for others,” he said. “What I struggle to say with words I can say with paintings.”

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