GALVESTON - Standing next to an easel with a half-finished canvas, Shanika Silva helped a young girl select the perfect color to help finish the pastel masterpiece.

The tiny, makeshift art studio is situated in a small room right next to the waiting room in the pediatric unit of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Primary Care Pavilion. 

It’s designed to be a creative way to help ease patients’ minds as they wait for whatever kind of medical appointment or procedure they’re scheduled to have that day, said 18-year-old Silva. 

By helping create a piece of art for the clinic, Silva hopes it gives the patients a since of ownership. 

Now, at UTMB’s pediat-clinic, there are three art pieces on display near the clinic’s triage area that patients have helped create, she said. 

Her contribution to Galveston County medical patients is part of a bigger project, called The Big Picture, which was started her junior year at Friendswood High School. 

The Big Picture is about showing that every little act of kindness is important and that no matter how old they are or what obstacles they have to overcome, everyone can make a difference, she said. 

Today, the recent Friendswood High School graduate with plans to attend the University of Southern California in August has worked with patients as far away as Sri Lanka, Friendswood ISD spokeswoman Karolyn Gephart said. 


The way it works

Silva sets up a blank canvas in the small room and patients in the waiting room are invited to help make a collaborated masterpiece. Last week, patients helped draw and color in a “fishy fashion show” with characters similar to those seen on SpongeBob SquarePants. 

Most kids picked bright, neon colors and vibrant blues to add to pastel drawing. Some simply colored in images drawn with pencil by Silva while others added their own personal contributions to the drawing. 

Silva watched closely and helped kids embrace their creative side — some of which did not have a whole lot of experience in drawing or using pastels, she said. 

Others, like Makela Toliver, were excited to get to draw while waiting for her appointment. The 12-year-old loves art and often doodles on notebooks, and even sometimes her arms, just to be creative, she said. 

Before working with patients in Galveston, Silva first worked with the National Cancer Institute in Maharagama, Gephart said. Her project is part of a larger project called the Revive to Survive program. 

“There she was able to develop her program and now completed three successful projects,” Gephart said. 

However in Sri Lanka, which is where her parents are from and some relatives still live today, Silva has completed 13 paintings that are now on display. 

The Big Picture operates on donations. Silva’s hope is that one day the organization will be able to be self sufficient and run free of donations. 

To learn more about Silva’s projects visit


Contact reporter Shannon Daughtry at 409-683-5337 or

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