Potocsky Puts His Art and Heart into Creating the ‘Clara Barton Red Heart Medal’
In the heart of the pandemic last spring, artist Marc Potocsky was praying for inspiration to find a way to honor the brave men and women healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to help others. His prayers were answered with an image he quickly captured on canvas.
“When COVID first hit, I saw all the red hearts on everybody’s lawns,” says Marc, a North Branford resident. “I prayed, ‘What can I do with the gift that I have? What can I do to contribute?’ And I saw an image of a red heart with a woman’s silhouette; that profile, wearing a mask, and it reminded me of the Purple Heart. So I went and looked at images of the Purple Heart, and I based the idea of a Red Heart medal off of that.”
For this talented artist, creating the image of that medal came quickly (it was completed in May 2020). What’s taken a bit longer is how to find a way to get the honor he’s created distributed, and in what form.
As a New Haven native who recently produced faux finish work for the newly restored Yale Art Gallery, Marc went to Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) first, with the thought of potentially collaborating to have the image made into a medal to give to all YNHH medical workers.
“The first thing they said to me was, ‘well, we have 15,000 health care workers,’” says Marc. “It would be an immense project.”
Still, Marc wanted to find a way to get the image into the hands of those deserving heroes. At first, some of his friends and associates suggested he create a T-shirt. Then, a childhood friend mentioned the idea of decals. That, Marc felt, could be the right start.
“The idea of the decals, something to put on your car window, a glass, a mirror, on your iPhone, is something I thought I could get going,” he says.
While talking with YNHH, Marc also learned about the hospital’s support programs that are helping nurses, doctors ,and others on the medical frontlines during COVID-19 cope with the trauma resulting from their work. Now, he is planning to launch a crowdfunding page to raise funds to not only help produce a decal that will initially go to YNHH health care heroes, but also to raise money to assist with those important support programs at YNHH. Look for the launch of fundraiser to be announced soon at www.facebook.com/marc.potocsky.
Marc’s hoping for an initial run of 15,000 to 20,000 decals, which he will distribute by setting up a table at YNHH to give to any deserving workers who want to receive it. From there, Marc says he hopes the image of the medal, which he has since dubbed the Clara Barton Red Heart Medal, can be shared in some way with all deserving medical first responders across the state and the country.
“I wanted to create something that really showed the significance of what they have given of themselves,” says Marc. “That’s why Clara Barton made so much sense. She was called the Angel of the Battlefield, and we’re at war. She represents anyone who works in the field. To me, those nurses and those doctors, and those people who were working there in the hospital when those people were coming in and dying—I want to honor them like you would honor someone who went to war.”
Marc’s created an image of a medal that holds meaning in its symbolism, imagery, and colors. The ribbon of purple and red holds a heart-shaped medal surrounded with gold on a field of red with the profile of a nurse in a facial mask, surrounded by two oak leaves (symbolizing strength) beneath a red cross. The American Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, a pioneering hospital nurse who served in the field during the Civil War.
“All of the colors and elements symbolize valor, bravery, courage, purity, protection, victory, and innocence,” says Marc, adding, “I’ve shown it to nurses that have cried when they saw it.”
For the purposes of the decal, Marc anticipates the image will have the added words “The Brave” across the top of his medal design (an image of that version appears with this story at www.zip06.com).
Using His Gift
While it may be hard to believe from looking at the wealth of imagery created for clients nationwide through his North Branford studio, Marc J. Potocsky Studio-MJP Studio, Marc is entirely self-taught and only began generating his works of art about seven years ago. His fine art skills in faux finishes, decorative arts, mural work, photo realism, and portrait painting—including portraits of rock stars and many other music legends — have been recognized in TV shows, books, and more (learn more about Marc at mjpfaux.com).
Marc moved North Branford from Branford about 10 years ago with his wife, Kathy (Kate) Barrett Potocsky, and has two sons, Marc and David. When Marc was growing up in New Haven, his gift for art was recognized at an early age, but Marc also had a gift for music, which became his first career.
“When I was a kid, I was into art and I was into music,” says Marc. “When it came time for me to graduate high school, my art teacher got me a free ride to go to Cooper Union...but I turned it down because I wanted to be a rock star. So I went down the road of music, and I was a professional musician for 20 or 30 years. And in that time, I never painted anything. I painted my first portrait maybe six, seven years ago.”
In fact, the first time Marc reached for a paintbrush to make a living after all those years, it wasn’t to create art.
“Out of necessity, when I got out of the music business, I started painting houses—regular house painting,” says Marc. “Then one thing led to another, and I started doing faux finishes and decorative painting. Then I started doing murals and art, and that’s where that starts. I learned on my own, from books, videos, a few workshops early on and just trial and error. I’m still learning! In these last years, I’ve done a lot of work in a short period of time.”
What Marc also came to realize was that his gift could help others.
“I did a painting of Derek Jeter a number of years ago, and that got me job doing sports art for a California company,” says Marc.
The sports artwork led to the Connecticut Cancer Foundation of Old Saybrook reaching out to him.
“They called and we started building a relationship, and I donated this painting to raise money at their annual function for patient and family support. And some guy bought it for $15,000,” says Marc. “That changed my life. It’s one thing for someone to like a painting, but to help somebody’s life with a painting? This blew me out of the water. It was a life-changer for me, totally.”
Now, Marc is hoping the artwork he’s created as the image of the Clara Barton Red Heart Medal will be something he can give to thank and honor medical frontline workers for the amazing contributions and sacrifices they’ve made during COVID-19.
As word of the image is beginning to spread, Marc’s been receiving other suggestions for sharing it, from submitting it as art for a U.S. postage stamp to having it adopted as a government medal to be provided nationwide.
For his part, Marc is also considering selling the original artwork piece, as well as prints of the art, to help raise money for the project. He says he could use help from others who might have experience in outreach and fundraising.
“I’m really trying to find somebody that can act as a coordinator, or knows how to market, so to speak, this image to get it to the people who deserve it. I need help in that area,” Marc says. “I think the more people who see the image, the more it will take off. I really believe that. I’m just trying to get this out there so it can be shared.”
For more information, contact Marc Potocsky—MJP Studios at 203-640-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.