Project Hüe turns memories into art to honor memory care patients’ lives

Project Hüe turns memories into art to honor memory care patients’ lives

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Angela Belter is bridging the gap between two things that normally aren’t paired together: art and healthcare.

In 2018 Belter created Project Hüe, an art initiative that turns people’s memories into paintings, as a way to honor the influence her late grandmother had on her life.

Belter’s grandmother, also a painter, passed away in 2017. During the time she was in the hospital, Belter visited her almost daily. She would prompt her grandmother with questions, wanting to hear the stories and memories that she ordinarily would have no reason to revisit. During these conversations, her grandmother told her how much she missed painting. Belter had a lightbulb moment.

Angela Belter with her grandmother (left) and mother (right). Photo courtesy of Angela Belter.

She brought in a canvas to the hospital, sat down and—drawing on the inspiration from her grandmother’s stories—created the painting she calls “Daisy Ray.”

Angela’s kitchen. “Daisy Ray” (center), the painting Angela created in honor of her grandmother, is the painting that inspired Project Hüe.

It was “Daisy Ray” that inspired the question Belter asked herself, “Why can’t I do this for other people?”

Project Hüe was then born.

Belter reached out to healthcare facilities in Milwaukee that began pairing her with patients willing to sit down with her and talk about their life. The patients, who primarily fall into the long-term and memory-care category, answer a series of questions Angela prepares over the course of a few days. Belter is prepared with a notebook and sketchpad and during their conversation, then ideates how the details of each person and their stories will be translated on canvas.

The surprise element of this? The patients have no idea what the end result of their conversation will be.

Once a painting is completed, Belter hosts a reveal ceremony. The patients, along with their close family and friends, watch as a she lifts a sheet from the easel centered in the room and collectively react with the emotional response that is reflective of both the art and the personal stories themselves.

Angela revealing a Project Hüe painting at a ceremony honoring the patient. Photo courtesy of Angela Belter.

"I want this gallery to go on forever. I want this to be history."

Angela has completed nearly a dozen Project Hüe paintings so far, with patients ranging in age from 45 to 99. And she has over 100 people signed up with interest to participate in 2019.

Angela painting in her home studio.

Belter is a 28-year-old artist, entrepreneur and author who is carving a space for herself in Milwaukee, driven by both her talent and passion. Her long-term hope is for the Project Hüe gallery to have a presence nationwide.

Through her artwork, Angela Belter helps long-term and memory care patients remember who they are.