If you knew my story: Tales from UCSF art therapy students

A central theme of BRIGHT STAR is that of story. When Alice Murphy sings, “ I was born to carry more than I can hold ... You’ll never see me crumble / You’ll never see me crawl / If you knew my story,” she is talking about the experience of being human, that everyone carries their stories with them, and you never know exactly what makes up a person.

As part of our #IfYouKnewMyStory campaign, we partnered with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital to bring some of their patient’s stories to the people of San Francisco. One of the crucial programs that USCF provides, besides medicine, is art therapy to help these children process what they’re dealing with, and to heal and grow from their experiences.

Thanks to Neiman Marcus Union Square, we were able to feature just a few of their words and images with passerby on Geary Street.

  • Painting by Emma, 16 years old

  • Artwork by Santino, 9 years old

  • Artwork by UCSF patient

  • Artwork by Chanel, 8 years old


Araceli, age 9

I thank all my doctors,
my mom and dad,
and all my nurses,
friends and people
who take care of me,
helping me with my treatment.

You’ve stood beside me, and
for that I’ll never forget
because I know there’s
a tree out there filled
with love, and I know
it can never be chopped down.

Painting by Araceli, age 9

Painting by Araceli, age 9


Aisea, age 13

My hands opening for a new person in my life;
my hands asking for the hands of people;
my hands sharing love to everyone.

My hands looking for a broken heart to fix,
becoming gentle for a new brother;
my hands holding a new life.

My hands closing to hold you for safety;
my hands showing friendliness to everyone,
waving good-bye to my family;
my hands hold you for comfort,
holding yours for warmth and love;
my hands waiting for exhilaration.

  • Drawing by UCSF patient Claudia

  • Painting by Luis, 18 years old

  • Painting by Eva, 15 years old

  • Artwork by Jesus "Chuy," 21 years old


Aaron, age 11

I have a heart horse whose heart is made of strength.
I have a heart horse whose heart beats in a brown forest.
I have a heart horse whose tail is made of water,
whose hooves are made of bone.
I have a heart horse whose mane is made of glittering stars.
I ride my heart horse through water,
and over the snowy mountains.
I ride my heart horse HOME.

Drawing by Aaron, age 11

Drawing by Aaron, age 11


Racheal, age 17

Acceptance starts with who you are,
not who others perceive you to be.
It comes down to who YOU believe you are.
There are people who try to put you down
and make you feel like you can never be like them.

It’s hard at first. You may take their words
and internalize them and believe them
for a while, even for a few years.
But then something unexpected happens.
You meet people who don’t care about your illness,
and they see you as a person; they take you in,
and that makes you happy. They tell you:
You are worth it!

  • Painting by Mila, 5 years old

  • Collage by Pearl, 21 years old

  • Collage by Prisilla, 17 years old


Asanti, age 15

In the day as dark as night,
and the fire as cold as ice
close, yet far,
here, yet there,
over, yet beginning.
Soothing, yet hurtful.
All these words about my pain
giving me no gain,
worse when it rains.
Yes, this is my pain!

Breathless is how it leaves me,
and I know it will always deceive me.
Here I am now, and this day is as dark as night,
the fire as cold as ice.
The closeness and the distance to confront you.

You might take a knife and shred my arm and back.
You might take a hammer and crack my skull.
You might even take your hands,
wrap them around my throat trying to forbid me
from telling the truth about me
and what I could be with or without you.
I will soar high through the sky.
I will fly.
I will swim deep into the ocean, and keep on living.
I will explore the world
until my heart finds what it seeks.

Though, our lives might be entwined
through the rest of our days on the earth.
I on this day am here to say:
You will not control me.
You will not bind me.
You will not hinder my soul or cripple my mind.
Here forth, now and forever,
In agreement, we both say,

Join us for Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's BRIGHT STAR, November 28-December 17 at the Curran.