Levi Faber’s living room looks more like an art studio these days, with wooden pieces covering the entire length of the room–some sanded, others painted, and even more needing work.

Paint cans, sandpaper and test subjects have taken over the family’s home–all a part of Levi’s creation that made its way to downtown Grand Rapids for 2015 ArtPrize.

Just entering his senior year at Northpoint Christian High School, the 18-year-old is looking to spread the word about organ donation.

It’s a personal mission for him. At age 2, he received his father’s kidney. Now he’s taken his cause to a new level, creating a form of art to enter ArtPrize. His goal? Signing up organ donors this fall.

His entry

My entry will take over an entire wall at 5/3 Bank and will represent all of the people in need of organs,” the Grand Rapids, Michigan, teen said as he sanded and painted small wooden people with holes in their bellies.

“Each person has a hole in their abdomen, representing the organ they might need,” he explained. “It’s in interactive piece, in a sense.”

Levi’s entry consists of 350 men, women, boys and girls–all missing their kidneys.

Michigan Gift of Life will be on-hand throughout the exhibition, sharing the importance of becoming an organ donor and signing up folks as they express interest.

Did you know?

  • More than 123,000 men, women and children need organ transplants in the United States.
  • Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • An average of 21 people die each day because the organs they need are not donated in time.
  • In 2014, more than 8,500 deceased donors made possible approximately 24,000 organ transplants.
  • 90 percent of Americans say they support donation but only 30 percent know the essential steps it takes to become a donor.
  • In 2014, the generosity of Michigan’s 253 organ donors resulted in 797 lifesaving organ transplants.

The interactive part of this art? If a visitor signs up to become a donor, that person will be able to write his or her name on a small orange, wooden kidney and insert it into one of the 350 people in Levi’s creation, ultimately becoming a part of his art.

“This has really been a family affair,” said Levi’s mom, Karen. “We have all been sanding and painting and very excited to see how this is all going to play out.”

Levi’s creation will crawl up the wall and onto the ceiling.

“People will really be able to step into his art,” Karen said.

Levi made it into ArtPrize just under the wire—with only two hours before the registration deadline passed.

“I really expect some traffic throughout ArtPrize, and hope we will be able to sign up some new organ donors,” Levi said.

His kidney

Kidneys are among the most-needed organs as far as organ donation is concerned. And what makes them special is the fact that a donor can still be living for a kidney transplant.

“We are so thankful to have the amazing doctors and nurses from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s pediatric nephrology team so close to home,” his mom said, as she reflected on his younger days when she would need to travel across the state for Levi’s care.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s pediatric nephrology specialty was ranked among the best hospitals in the U.S. in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Children’s Hospitals.

“I only go in every 3-4 months now for follow-up visits, and have lab work every month,” Levi said. “I can even drive myself now. It was harder when I was a baby and my mom had to take me all of the time.”

Levi’s dad was his organ donor, and his mother is a backup if anything ever goes wrong.

“When he had his kidney transplant, he was so little, and Pete’s kidney was so big,” Karen said with a smile. “He couldn’t even walk … he would waddle around completely off balance.”

Levi’s transplant journey was easier than many others, being that he had a built-in donor within his family (thanks, Dad!) and didn’t need to wait for a matching organ from an unknown donor. He also never had to go on dialysis and is now into his 16th year with his kidney with little to no trouble.

“We have really encouraged Levi to get involved in spreading the word about organ donation,” Karen added. “It’s an important part of his life and is something that truly does change people’s lives.