Art and health collide this month in a unique new exhibit aimed at making a difference in the community.

The participating artists have one thing in common – they’re all practicing doctors passionate about photography and all 10 of them are chipping in for a common goal.

“We wanted money and proceeds to help cancer patients and their families,” explains Dr. Michele McClendon, a nephrology specialist at Bond Clinic in Winter Haven. “But we wanted to keep it local and do something specifically for Polk County residents.”

That’s why admission and silent auction sales will benefit the Hope Lodge — a non-profit facility where cancer patients can find housing while they’re being evaluated and treated at Moffitt Cancer Center.

“We personally know patients who have used it,” McClendon said. “We know this money is going to a great cause.”

The exhibit’s name weaves the two concepts together – “Cameras for a Cause – The Doctors Show.”

The idea first emerged about two years ago, when McClendon and other physicians struck up a conversation about photography over dinner.

“We were showing our latest pictures on our phones, the way people do,” McClendon said. “We thought it would be nice to showcase them somehow while giving back at the same time.”

The idea bloomed from there.

McClendon collaborated with David Wood, an art professor at Polk State College, and other faculty to help organize the event and secure a show location within the school’s Winter Haven Fine Arts Gallery.

She also recruited other doctors – most of whom are local, but one of which is from as far away as Atlanta – who were interested in lending photos to the show.

Each doctor was asked to submit three photos to Cameras for a Cause, but McClendon said the final tally ended up being much higher. The subject matter of the work submitted spans genres such as architecture and cityscapes to bucolic countrysides and ocean views.

McClendon may have set the show in motion, but the nephrologist remains modest when it comes to her talents or making the exhibit a reality.

“I’m very honored to be in this group,” she said. “It’s really been a team effort.”

Cameras for a Cause is a new experience for physicians such as Dr. Juan Rivera, a colleague of McClendon’s and an internal medicine doctor who also practices at Bond Clinic. Rivera’s art has never hung in a gallery for a public audience before – but it has adorned the walls of his office and exam rooms for years.

Rivera said photography is a medium that helps break down barriers and unites people. It’s a great conversation starter with patients, who are often shocked to learn that the artist behind the image on the wall is sitting right in front of them.

“It helps break the ice,” he said. “I have many photos of Argentina and South America hanging up. Patients often say, ‘I didn’t know Argentina had glaciers.’ Photography gives people a chance to learn and see things they’ve never experienced.”

McClendon, Rivera and other participating doctors are hopeful to make Cameras for a Cause an annual event that fosters growing support from the community.

The three-week art exhibit kicked off last week and runs through Sept. 5.

The highlight of the show is a special reception featuring live music, food and a silent auction taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 30 at 999 Ave. H N.E. in Winter Haven.

All proceeds, of course, benefit the Hope Lodge.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at CentralFloridaTix.com or the night of the event. Visit www.BondClinic.com for more information.

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