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Parkland Hospital artist helps cancer patients walk through ‘Doors of Hope’

August 27, 2020
August 27, 2020

As an artist, Brandon Warren is best known for the large-scale, vibrant murals he has painted on the walls of businesses, schools and homes around Farmington, Missouri, and throughout the Midwest.

Now a door standing on a street corner in downtown St. Louis displays his colorful style while portraying the hope cancer patients feel when coming to area hospitals for treatment.

The door is mounted in front of UMB Bank, 2 South Broadway. It is one of 42 decorated by local artists as part of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge “Doors of Hope” public art project. The doors, which symbolize the 42 suites at the ACS St. Louis Hope Lodge, are on display at sites across the region until October. They are meant to raise awareness and donations to refurbish Hope Lodge, a facility where out-of-town cancer patients and their caregivers can stay free of charge while undergoing treatment.

Warren says this project resonates with him, not only because his wife is a cancer survivor, but because of his “day job” working as a CT technologist with cancer patients in the Parkland Health Center radiology department in Farmington.

“I see patients each and every day in various stages of diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical intervention and recovery,” Warren says on the Doors of Hope site. “I rise and fall with the wins and losses of these people whom I have come to know and developed good friendships with.”

Warren was among the first artists tapped for the project. A friend who worked at the agency partnering with Hope Lodge reached out to him. “I was very excited and humbled to be asked,” he says.

Earlier this year, the participating artists received a steel, contractor-grade door and the directive to decorate it in a way that was meaningful to them. Finished doors were then mounted in their frames and bolted to concrete platforms at participating businesses and public institutions. The public can vote for their favorite door, with the winner to be installed in the renovated Hope Lodge.

Warren’s door is titled “Hope Anchors the Soul.” One side features a praying “concrete angel” figure in front of a St. Louis skyline, as a well as a bell, referring to the bell cancer patients traditionally ring at the end of treatment.

The other side references a Bible verse calling hope “the anchor of the soul.” Anchors were a special symbol to a friend of his who died of cancer, says Warren. An anchor, painted the colors of ribbon used to symbolize thyroid cancer, holds steady in the midst of raging waves.

“Hope” is lettered on both sides of the door. “I wanted the word ‘Hope’ to be visible to all who pass my door: the open door to hope for those weary travelers coming through cancer,” he says.

It runs in the family

Warren comes from a family of artists, dating back to his grandfather. His father, fellow Parkland employee Steve Warren, is known for his landscape paintings and portraits — several of which he’s donated to the annual Friends in Action Clubhouse Art Show to benefit the BJC Behavioral Health Friends in Action Clubhouse program.

Warren says his father was his first art teacher, playing drawing games and sharing tips with him when he was young. The two later collaborated on a mural in Parkland Farmington, illustrating the hospital’s values journey.

But other than grade school and high school art classes, Warren is largely self-taught. He studies artists and genres he likes and watches online instructional videos, he says.

He began his mural career painting sports team logos in friends’ “man caves” and cartoon characters on the bedroom walls of his son and other family members.

His “big break” as a commercial artist came a few years ago when Sugarfire Restaurant asked him to do a mural for the chain’s Farmington location. That led to him being hired to do murals in the O’Fallon, Illinois, and Indianapolis locations of the chain as well.

Over the past two years, he’s also painted murals on the walls of the Barn-B-Q restaurant in Lake of the Ozarks; and Old No. 102 Taphouse, Parkland Health Mart, Mineral Area Psychiatric Services, the Farmington Creative Arts Center and The Missouri Shirt Co., all in Farmington. His postcard-style mural on the side of the Krekeler’s Jewelers building is now a landmark in downtown Farmington, and students at Central Middle School in Park Hills, Missouri, see Warren’s work on their lockers and hallways throughout the school day.

Since the pandemic hit, he has designed T-shirts for local businesses and boutiques and produced artist’s sketches of Marvel Comics characters for Marvel’s partnership with the Upper Deck trading card company.

“I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to do work on the side for Marvel or paint murals in the towns I grew up in and around,” he says. “I feel completely honored and humbled to have been asked to be a part of Doors of Hope — as well as all of the other opportunities that I've been given.”

To vote for Brandon Warren’s door and get a map of where all 42 doors are located, click here.

Brandon Warren describes of his Doors of Hope project, ‘Hope is an Anchor to the Soul’

Hope is sometimes the only word we can see that shines like a beacon of light. The “St. Louis side” of the door has the Arch and a reference to the St. Louis skyline and the Mississippi River (I know, not muddy enough). The woman in prayer is a “concrete angel” reminding us all of those who have been taken by cancer — what we are fighting for. She’s purple, because she represents no specific race, tribe or people group — she could be anybody because she isn’t specifically anybody. Also, Relay for Life uses the color purple throughout its campaign against cancer. Then, of course, the bell — for those lucky enough to ring signaling the final round of chemo, the KO to Cancer.

The “Anchor Side” is a direct reference to the scripture that speaks the truth that Hope is an anchor for the soul. We lost a dear friend to cancer and anchors were special to her. On the anchor are the three colors of the thyroid cancer ribbon — of which my wife is a survivor. The water rages on in consuming waves, but the anchor holds. I wanted the word “Hope” to be visible to all who pass my door. The open door to hope for those weary travelers coming through cancer.

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