The paintings that will be on display at Good Shepherd Women’s Center this month are more than just decorations.
The art is the foundation of the Hundred Hearts Project, created by a former Hermiston resident who hopes to inspire acts of gratitude in others.
It started in 2016, when Jenny Loughmiller was battling severe depression.
“I just felt like my heart was like a sieve,” she said. “I couldn’t hold love in it and I couldn’t give from it.”
As she struggled against feelings that her life was falling apart, she knew she needed a project to re-focus on positive things. She decided to create a list of 100 women she was grateful for and paint a unique heart representing each one, accompanied by a note about the person.
At first, Loughmiller said, she experienced feelings of gratitude for the woman for whom she was creating a heart. As the project progressed over the course of two years she started feel grateful for other people in her life, then for good things that happened to her throughout the day and the richness of the life she had.
“Nothing had changed in my life,” she said. “But the way I thought about my life was completely different, and that changed everything.”
The women featured in the project are an eclectic bunch, spanning relatives, friends, a running coach and a yarn shop owner. Several live in The Dalles, where Loughmiller currently makes her home, while others she met while living in Hermiston from 2002 to 2006.
One of the hearts is for Dr. Nancy Rudd-McCoy, who served as Loughmiller’s OB/GYN in Hermiston and delivered her daughter Anna. Loughmiller wrote in the note accompanying the blue and white heart that Rudd-McCoy had shared in heartbreak and in joy with her.
“I’ll never forget the kindness and dignity you offered me,” she wrote.
When she got online to search for the doctor’s address to tell her about the project, however, she discovered Rudd-McCoy had died in 2016.
She also discovered that Good Shepherd Health Care System had named its new Women’s Center after Rudd-McCoy. She contacted Good Shepherd about showing the work at the clinic, and they agreed to host the display.
Jessie Morrison, practice manager at the Good Shepherd Women’s Center, said she loved the idea behind the Hundred Hearts Project and felt that it was a perfect fit for a center that serves women, sometimes through times of heartache and sometimes through times of joy.
“It’s just heart-warming to know that she was touched by so many women,” Morrison said.
She said she is amazed how unique and detailed each piece is, based on images Loughmiller posted online, and she can’t wait to see them in person.
The artwork will be on display at the women’s center March 12-29 with a public open house on March 12 from 5-7 p.m.
Besides Rudd-McCoy, three other women in the Hundred Hearts Project were women that Loughmiller got to know while in Hermiston. Krista Westover and Kristi Anderson have since moved, but Julie Puzey still lives in Hermiston.
Loughmiller described Puzey as a “mentor/best friend/mother/sister” combination.
“She’s just a phenomenal person,” she said.
In the painting for Puzey, hearts in various shades form a pink flower against a blue sky.
Each painting in the Hundred Hearts Project is one square foot. Some were created with acrylic paint and some are mixed-media. Loughmiller minored in art in college, but described her past self as a self-conscious artist who hadn’t created art for public consumption before.
“It was really fun for me as an artist just to let the inspiration come and not question it,” Loughmiller said.
After being displayed in Hermiston, she will take the Hundred Hearts Project to locations in Oregon, Idaho and Utah throughout the year. When the tour is over, she plans to send each woman her painting and the accompanying note describing their impact on her life.
Loughmiller is also launching what she calls the Million Hearts Project, challenging other people to commit to 100 acts of gratitude in honor of 100 people who have touched their life.
“It could be 100 plates of cookies, 100 notes or 100 poems,” she said.
The power of gratitude is “phenomenal,” she said, and she wants to inspire others to harness it in their own life.
For more information visit hundredheartsproject.org.