Wishes for the World: Wisdom from elders inspires artwork for a Hallmark duo

Every year, Hallmark grants a sabbatical, called the Barbara Marshall Award, to someone in the Creative organization to pursue a passion-led project. This year, Photo Stylist Andy N. and Writing Studio Team Lead Marn J. were the recipients. For their project, they interviewed over 70 older people to gather their “wishes”—for themselves, for their families, and for the world. Andy and Marn created artwork based on some of the over 250 wishes for their Wishes for the World exhibit in Hallmark’s headquarters in Kansas City.

The Wishes for the World project

Andy: Marn and I share a real love for the older generation; in fact, we have a good friend, Stormy Shank, who is 99—and we’ve always treasured our friendship with her. But our real motivation was our own parents and the situations we were both experiencing at the time. They made us both look at elder care in a whole new light.

Marn: We’ve learned a lot about elder care and, specifically, Alzheimer’s. You see how important it is to advocate for elders and to honor them, especially when they are in a compromised state. Our world celebrates youth and often diminishes those who are in their final stages of life. It’s just not right.

Hallmark Barbara Marshall Award Winners Andy N. and Marn J.

Wishes For The World exhibit at Hallmark, Inc. headquarters in Kansas City

Andy: We interviewed over 70 elders—here in town, at various senior living communities, and out of town as well—gathering wishes from all over the country. We got to meet and talk to a very diverse group of people, which was important to us. Our conversations were so fun; each person had so much to offer and so much to share.

Marn: Hearing everyone’s story was the biggest gift for us! We wanted to give these wise and wonderful people the time, an ear, and an opportunity to be heard. So often we don’t take the time to ask questions and listen to the answers. They have so much goodness to share.

Marn talks to a visitor to the Wishes for the World exhibit

Wishes from interviews captured on paper for sorting


Finding inspiration for art

Andy: We basically selected the wishes that spoke to us at the moment. We thought we’d end up selecting the same ones but, amazingly, we each picked different wishes. If we just had more time, we would have done all 250 of them. It was hard to stop!

Marn: That was the easy part. Each wish inspired an idea in a very organic and natural way. It’s hard to articulate where the mind wanders but I will say, it was much harder to turn off the ideas than to turn them on.

Andy N. works on a macrame wall hanging

Marn paints

No longer “old and discarded”

Andy: Marn and I both love collecting old things—from flea markets, antique malls, estate sales—things already layered with history and from another generation. We also found pieces from the local junkyard so we could take materials that were “old and discarded”—breathing new life, new beauty into them. It was the perfect metaphor.

Artwork inspired by the wish: "I wish every artist would know how important they are to the world.'


Framed photo collage from Wishes for the World exhibit


Marn: We started out thinking we might collaborate, but we ended up executing our own pieces. Andy collaborated with some photographers, as he is a photo stylist and loves working that way—but mostly, we created our own work. We did, however, rely on each other to help troubleshoot a piece when we were stuck.

Dimensional artwork from Wishes for the World exhibit


Andy: We did see each other almost every day. We’d go over to each other’s houses to check the progress of the day and our competitive juices would begin to flow. We were always inspired by each other.

Kansas City art institute students look at the wishes from interviews

Andy and Marn look at wish projects completed by Kansas City art institute students

Bridging wisdom and youth

Marn: It was also important to us to pass the wishes on to a new generation, so we partnered with the Illustration Department of the Kansas City Art Institute: Students selected a wish and had a day to create a piece of art. Twenty of those pieces hang in our show.

Andy: Having the students participate was full circle for us—now the younger people are keepers of the wishes.

Marn talks to a visitor to the Wishes for the World exhibit

Sketches in journals from Wishes for the World exhibit

Sending wishes into the world

Andy: We went into this knowing we were going to have an exhibit in the end, but we had no idea how it would ultimately take shape. We were lucky to have so much talented help to put it all together. We are happy and proud of the end result—the work—but we are most proud of the fact that it is resonating with so many people.

Marn: That is the best part. The message is getting out: the important message of integrating elders into our daily lives, and that what they say matters. The stories and wishes we captured are like little gifts, and we wanted to share them with the world in a meaningful way.

Visitor views large-scale photo from Wishes for the World exhibit


Andy and Marn hope that by sharing their body of work, they will remind everyone to stop and have a conversation with an elder…to listen, and to ask them about their wishes. It will not only make their day—it’ll make your day, too. You can see their work on Instagram @wishes4world and tag yours #olderiswiser and #talktoyourelders.


Leave a Comment

  1. 8.20.18 | Reply
    Leslie Mark wrote:

    Marn, Andy — your work is uplifting. I cared for my mother for an years as Alzheimer’s frayed her memory and unraveled her mind. But her heart was strong and she countinued to teach me through to the end. Thanks for the beautiful project and words / visions of wisdom.

  2. 9.18.18 | Reply
    Marjie Weldele wrote:

    I would really love to see Wishes4World go on tour. More people really need to see this. I would love to take my students (Colorado Springs) to this to start a conversation and challenge them to come up with their own Think.Make.Share project.

  3. 12.13.18 | Reply
    GiGi wrote:

    Also love to see your work travel to different cities! I oversee the care for a 98 year old neighbor and I see how lonely it can be. Stimulating conversations bring her back to life!