University of Missouri
205 Portland Street
Columbia, MO 65211

Davi sits and looks at her artwork

Lending a Hand

Walking through the lobby, halls and rooms of the Thompson Center clinic, it’s clear that the space was designed intentionally to create a calming yet creative environment for patients and their families. This was done through sensory friendly colors, textures and art throughout the space. One University of Missouri student is adding to this therapeutic-inducing environment through the creation of her own original artwork.

Davi stands next to her artwork, Hand.

Morgan Davi graduated from the Mizzou School of Health Professions with a degree in health sciences in May. During her time as a student, she worked and trained at the Thompson Center within the Applied Behavior Intervention Services (ABIS) clinic. Davi wanted to do something to help her clients as well as future Thompson Center patients that would last longer than the time she spent working and learning at the Center.

“I’ve been painting and sculpting since I was young,” Davi said. “When I finally decided to add a Fine Art minor to my studies my junior year of college, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. For my capstone project, I wanted to combine my passion for health sciences and art to fully reflect all that I had learned in my higher education.”

the unfinshed artwork before paint
Hand about halfway through production.

Working directly with children with autism, Davi learned recent studies show that sensory activities coupled with warm colors can help provide stress reduction as well as reinforcement of applied behavior analysis therapy. This knowledge helped inspire her artwork, which she named Hand.

“I originally came up with the idea when one of the clients I routinely worked with requested to touch an existing wall sculpture that was hanging in the therapy space,” Davi said. “I was loath to deny this request, so I started designing a textured wall piece. I researched literature on color interactions with children, color theory, sensory toys, and other interactive art pieces. I intend for this piece to be a calming, reinforcing part of the learning environment for the Thompson Center. I hope that both the clients and the faculty of the TC enjoy running their hands along the art pieces surface for many years to come.”

a picture of the finished artwork
Hand as a finished piece.

Davi designed and created her art to be both balanced and asymmetrical. After shaping the piece using plywood, she added hundreds of small wood pieces of many shapes and sizes to create dozens of different textures for children to explore. She then painted the work various shades of a relaxing blue before finishing with a resin to allow for regular cleaning.

Hand stands approximately 4 feet by 4 feet and will hang in the new Thompson Center ABIS clinic once the renovation of the existing space is complete. There, it will be sure to provide therapy to hundreds of children in the future.

“This piece is dedicated to the clients who have changed my life forever,” Davi said. “I will remember their names, their birthdays, and their favorite things long after I am no longer in their life. I hope that Hand enjoys a long life enchanting the children—and maybe some of the adults—of the Thompson Center.”