PA Mission Trip Inspires Art Series
(ABILENE, Texas)–Mission trips often inspire people to be more grateful, generous, and kind. For one participant in Hardin-Simmons University’s Physician Assistant program’s recent medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic, the experience inspired much more.
After returning from the trip in May, artist Michael Wurman created seven drawings depicting the trip to the Dominican Republic, plus two pieces depicting Abilene landscapes. Wurman donated the pieces to decorate HSU’s newly renovated Physician Assistant space in Mabee Hall, where his daughter is currently enrolled.
“We’ve always been very close, and when she invited me to go along on the mission trip,” he said, “I figured it’d be a great chance to not only reconnect with her, but I’d also get to see her in action, doing what she loves.”
As the PA students held clinics in sugar mill settlements, Wurman joined in, distributing personal hygiene products including lotion, shampoo, and deodorant. Although Wurman could not speak Dominican Spanish nor Haitian Creole, his actions spoke volumes.
“When I handed them simple items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, the communication barrier was broken,” he said. “Their eyes would light up, and often a smile would form…Those items are so commonplace to us that we don’t even think about it, yet for them to receive such a luxury, meant the world.”
Without a medical background, Wurman said he sometimes felt unable to help the people he met.
“I knew that handling the hygiene station and filling up water bottles was important, but I also wanted to use my talents,” he said. “It was during the bus ride back to the Mission, at the end of the first day, that I came up with the idea to do a series of pieces for the school. I knew the PA department had just moved into a new building, and when I found out through my daughter that the walls were still empty, it only made sense to donate them.”
In addition to two pastel pieces titled “Fort Phantom Hill” and “Sunset Over Abilene,” Wurman created several pastel pieces depicting the landscape of the Dominican Republic: “Palm,” “Sunset in the Dominican Republic,” “Dominican Republic Tree,” and “Sugar Cane Field.”
Three other pieces include the people of the Dominican Republic and were drawn in charcoal: “Sugar Cane Workers,” “Two Men,” and “Santa Cruz DelSeibo, Dominican Republic.”
“The landscape of the D.R. is beautiful, but it’s the people that fill the landscape that make it so special,” said Wurman. “I could have easily drawn them in the vibrant colors of my pastels, but I wanted to contrast their often hard lives against what most people see when they visit the Dominican Republic.”
Wurman is no stranger to drawing from his traveling experiences. After struggling with doubt in his ability as an artist, Wurman gained inspiration from a hike on the Appalachian Trail.
“When I took a picture of the white-painted swatch (blaze) that marks the trail, I was suddenly consumed with not only the desire to draw again but also to hike the entire trail,” he said. “I wasn’t doing it just to hike; I was there to draw, and if I were lucky, find myself somewhere along the way.”
Although Wurman is not an HSU graduate, he plans to stay connected to the university.
“I look forward to my continued relationship with HSU, even after my daughter graduates, and providing more paintings/drawings to fill their walls,” he said.