Gallery displays creative healing

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is a lot of good for anybody making almost any kind of art. Just as each of us benefits from physical exercise even though we may not become professional athletes, making art is intensely cathartic and healing and should be enjoyed by everyone, even those who do not think they will become the next Picasso.”

-From The Mission of Art by Alex Grey

A transformation is taking place; one both needed and welcomed.

Beyond the usual repairs, repainting and refurbishing of the interior of the facility, Chandler Health and Rehab is adorning its walls with art created by its residents.

Chandler administrator Joe Meadows, who spends after work hours in his own painting studio, has brought canvases, acrylics and twice-weekly classes to any of the 135–plus residents who choose to participate.

Assisted by the activities staff, a parade of wheelchairs, walkers and a few mobile bodies arrive in the sunny cafeteria and take their places behind tabletop easels. In the style of the popular Sips ‘n’ Strokes, which Meadows credits with reigniting his childhood interest in painting, each participant is encouraged to take brush to canvas in whatever way feels right to them.

Some choose to work to replicate the colorful sample prints provided and some translate personal memories. Some enjoy making gift paintings for family members. Mary Conaway has taken a fancy to painting the generic trash basket found in each room.

The power of color and therapeutic expression realized in these afternoons has energized the residents who have a wide spectrum of disabilities. Meadows, who takes a ‘no excuses’ position, reminds them “I can’t” is not an acceptable option.

The staff provides encouragement and assistance by mixing colors and helping painters ‘work through’ any inevitable frustrations that arise when ideas are being transferred from brain to hand to brush.

Those who are enthusiastic regulars include residents whose movements are limited by stroke or injuries from debilitating car accidents. Others have Down Syndrome; a few are vision impaired. Many suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

All are delighted to see their efforts now lining the halls in a gallery-like effect that captivates and amazes all visitors.

If you would like to donate painting supplies for this on-going program, contact Anna Martin, director of activities at 663-3859. An evening art reception and open house is planned and will be open to the public.