Artist Playing Cards to Raise Money for the Hygienic


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NEW LONDON — Hygienic Art Galleries has elevated games of pandemic-induced solitaire into an art form with their latest fundraiser, a deck of playing cards featuring paintings and sketches by local artists. 

“It’s nice for people to have an entire art show in their pocket,” said Troy Zaushny, an artist in residence at the Hygienic who contributed artwork to the project.

Executive Director Bess Gaby said she got the idea from a similar project she’d worked on with another nonprofit, but the idea took on a new significance with the pandemic — pieces of art that could also be used to pass the greater amount of time that people are spending at home.

“My boyfriend and I, we play a ton of board games and card games,” said Gaby. “I thought the card project would be a perfect reboot for a time in quarantine, when you can play card games with whoever you’re with.” 

The nonprofit reached out to 54 local artists back in April, asking them each to submit a piece of original art. She said she spent a lot of time working with each artist, making sure the art translated well onto the small, flat surfaces of the cards. 

Gaby said that initially the Hygienic received mixed feedback about participating in the project. The pandemic had taken its toll on some of the artists; some of them, she said, didn’t feel like creating.

“Depression was something that was really hard in the artists community,” said Gaby. 

According to Gaby, others, especially younger artists, embraced the project enthusiastically. She had one artist submit her work all the way from Croatia. 

The cards weren’t tied to any specific theme; some are more traditional takes on ordinary playing cards, others went to creative extremes. Gaby said that some artists took the opportunity to try out completely different styles of art than they would normally do.

Zaushny designed his card, the six of hearts, after looking up the card’s significance and discovering that it was the card of the “soul.” 

“I just thought that was really cool. I believe in the soul – it’s a big part of my spiritual life and my artistic life,” he said.  

Zaushny also designed the back of the cards, drawing elements from the standard deck of Bicycle playing cards. 

So far, Gaby said that the Hygienic has received $2,000 in pre-orders, and they hope to reach $10,000. Ten percent of what they earn will go into a fund for artists who are struggling to find work. 

Zaushny said that while the project had given the artists something to do, the real money would come from selling the original prints of the piece.
The deck of cards is available online for $25 through Hygienic Art’s online website. They will be available for pickup at the gallery beginning December 4.

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.