Coming together over local art

Twigs view found painting commissioned in 1970

By Nikki Blankenship -

A local work of art has been found and brought together some old friends with memories of decades long gone.

The Twigs were originally a guild for the old Mercy Hospital, which closed in 1999. The group started in the 1940s with the mission of helping out the hospital’s pediatrics unit, Joan Selby, one of 14 remaining members, explained.

“We were all young and energetic and didn’t have any money, but wanted to do something to help,” member Pat McKinney stated.

She added that most of the members had children, so helping pediatrics was important to them.

McKinney first joined the Twigs when her son was born in 1946. She remembers how much work the women would do to collect donations.

“We used to have Christmas bizarres, and would work ourselves to the bone,” she explained.

Eventually, the women found a way to get money out of their husbands.

“We would make money by having parties,” Selby explained.

The women would charge their husbands $25 to get in. They would work all day to make the food and would entertain the men in the evening. The Twigs would have these dinners four times a year and would also have raffles. Soon, they expanded to offering funds for different departments within the hospital. They even bought memberships to the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) Life Center for heart patients.

Member Jenny Tombs, who co-served as group president with Selby for several years, explained that they would often just ask the hospital what was needed. Over the years, they made curtains, made crafts, held dog shows, bought toys and had fun.

“Of course, the whole idea was service with a smile,” Tombs stated. “And we did smile because we were having fun.”

She added that the Twigs were originally Twig 13 because there were 13 original members.

Over the year, the Twigs would lose members to death. Anytime a member would die, the group would memorialize them by commissioning a painting by a local artist. In the 1970’s, the Twigs commissioned a work in memory of the late Jean Chapman. The painting was donated to Mercy, where it hung until the building was torn down. Since that time, it has just kind of been forgotten.

Then SOMC’s Mary Arnzen found it after it had been in storage for several years. The painting had been damaged and was in need of restoration. She contacted the Southern Ohio Museum about getting the work restored and immediately contacted the Twigs to let them know that it had been found.

“We rescued it,” Arnzen stated.

“We were happy to assist in getting the painting restored,” Museum Artistic Director Charlotte Gordon stated. “That is part of what we do.”

However, she was equally excited to hear that after restoration, the hospital and the Twigs had decided the painting would be best housed at the museum.

“There are three ways to look at a painting,” Gordon stated.

Those three ways are by considering the artist, the subject and the history of the piece. This painting was done by a local artist on the subject of the circus (which has a significant history to the area) and was commissioned by a group community supporters who support a cornerstone of the community.

“We’re very excited to have this wonderful gift,” Gordon added.

Other paintings commissioned by the Twigs still hang in the halls of SOMC and the SOMC Life Center, where they can be viewed by patients and visitors.
Twigs view found painting commissioned in 1970

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.