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Valley artists take part in worldwide movement to honor healthcare heroes

It all started with a social post and this hashtag: #PortraitsforNHSHeroes.

GILBERT, Ariz. — The big heroes during the pandemic have been all our health care workers – working around the clock treating COVID-19 patients. 

One artist in the UK wanted to honor doctors, nurses and medical professionals and his idea has inspired a movement around the world, including here in the Valley.

It all started with a social post and this hashtag: #PortraitsforNHSHeroes.

“This gives something back to the people who are saving lives,” said Jane Bradley.  

She’s an artist with the Gilbert Visual Art League and a teacher. She saw the post on Instagram and immediately wanted to help.

“For me, it was easy I put on my Instagram page. I put a little green note that said, I'm open to hearing from any doctor or some healthcare worker. And I'm going to do one painting, and people started with one painting and then you get more and more,” said Bradley.

Jane knew she couldn’t do all the portraits on her own. Luckily three other local artists responded to the post and jumped on board too.

“It makes you feel like you're doing something that's appreciated. And I think everybody should do something like this.”

Jane has worked on three portraits for healthcare workers across the U.S. and built a bond with the heroes, specifically one on the east coast.

Dr. Olajide Williams was working on the front lines during the height of the pandemic in New York when his sister told him about Portraits for Heroes.

“As soon as I met Jane and started corresponding, I felt her goodness, I really felt that she cared,” said Williams.

“I wasn’t really comfortable with the portrait idea, but then I looked at her work on her website and she does such elegant work.”

These portraits not only honor the medical heroes but also give the artists purpose during this time.

“When I paint, I need myself too. So I'm giving him part of how I feel about him," Williams said. "Maybe we can't do our normal stuff but even beyond that we're feeling helpless to help,” said Bradley.

And Dr. Williams' reaction to his first-ever portrait?

“Oh my god, oh my God, this is amazing!”

Dr. Williams doesn’t consider himself a hero. He says he’s just doing his job, but he’s grateful for the support.

“A deep sense of gratitude and appreciation that she would take the time to do all that work,” said Williams.

Dr. Williams plans to hang the portrait in his office and his mom has plans for it too.

“It’s something I would look at every morning and fill me with encouragement as I go to do my work.

“I think she did a fabulous job with it. My mum loves it she’s going to frame it and out it all over the house.”

Though COVID-19 has caused struggle and pain, it has also brought connection and appreciation.

Jane says to “share it like a virus. But it’s a good virus. It’s a virus that’s gone all around the world, but in a good way.”

Dr. Williams said, “This is probably the most beautiful expression of appreciation that I’ve ever had from anyone.”

The hashtag has evolved and now there’s an art gallery showcasing the work of the original artists in the UK.

The other three local artists, Shelley Marler, Rosalie Vaccaro and Glenda Nieman portraits share their work on a Facebook page.