Tag Archives: art therapy

Art meets oncology

Materials I recently spotted at Scottsdale Healthcare’s cancer center

Recently I discovered a thick book of beautiful artwork in the lobby for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare. Our son was treated there last spring, but I was near the center for something unrelated — and decided to stop in to check out any new art that might have been installed since my last visit.

Even in tough times, I find ways to explore the arts around me. They keep me grounded, remind me of what’s truly important and inspire me to move past despair when traveling the roughest roads. Plenty of people find solice in the arts — including those who’ve created tiles for the cancer center’s “Wall of Valor,” which honors people who’ve survived cancer or been lost to cancer.

And those who created the artwork featured in the book “Lilly Oncology On Canvas: Expressions of a Cancer Journey” — which includes selections from a 2010 art competition and exhibition presented by Lilly Oncology and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

Their bienniel competition, started in 2004, “invites individuals diagnosed with any type of cancer — as well as their families, friends, caregivers and healthcare providers — to express, through art and narrative, the life-affirming changes that give their cancer journeys meaning.”

It’s competition time once again, and the call has gone out for works of art by folks ages 18 or older who live in the U.S., Puerto Rico or Canada. Seems you “don’t have to be a professional artist or writer” because “it’s the sharing of the story that counts.”

“Wild Water,” which won first place in the 2010 LOOC competition. Photo courtesy of LOOC.

Call for entry packets are available online. Competition director Anita Chernewski notes that folks have until June 29 to register for the competition, and to submit artwork for consideration (despite an earlier registration date still listed online).

A mixed media work by a person in Arizona diagnosed with cancer earned three awards in 2010: Best of Exhibition-1st Prize Winner, Best Entry by a Person Diagnosed with Cancer and Best Mixed Media by a Person Diagnosed with Cancer.

It’s called “Wild Water” and is the first piece readers see in the 2010 book, which doesn’t list artist names. Second prize went to “Breathing Room” by a person diagnosed with cancer who lives in Michigan, and third prize went to “No Words” by a person diagnosed with cancer who lives in New Jersey.

During the 2010 competition, awards were presented in categories for oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, photography and mixed media. Within each category three winners were selected — one a person diagnosed with cancer, one a healthcare professional and one a family member, friend or caregiver.

A black and white photo called “My Grandma Was a Tough Lady,” featuring a beaming grandmother holding a beautiful baby, was created by a family member in Arizona, and honored as a winner in the photography category.

Submissions should measure between 9 x 12 and 18 x 24 inches, be flat and conform to guidelines noted on the Lilly Oncology on Canvas website. All artwork needs to be accompanied by a narrative in English that’s 125 words or less. Guidelines for those babies are available online as well.

Select artworks will be part of a traveling exhibition, and prizes consist of contributions to cancer-related causes selected by winners. You’ve still got plenty of time to create and submit an original work. Just be sure you read the fine print first lest you learn after the fact of rules prohibiting signing your work and such.

Click here to enjoy a bit of inspiration from 2006, 2008 and 2010 winners online. And spend some time admiring tiles along the “Wall of Valor” next time you’re near Scottsdale Healthcare. It’s grand art on a small scale.

— Lynn

Note: You can enjoy an exhibit of artwork by patients at the Muhammed Ali Parkinsons Center through June 2 at the Burton Barr Central Library (second floor/north end) in Phoenix.

Coming up: Words and images from the “Wall of Valor”


Mothers making the journey home…

Women at Estrella Jail participating in the Journey Home program. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Mother’s Day was the farthest thing from my mind as I drove into the parking lot for visitors to the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, which is temporary home for “approximately 1,000 inmates, predominantly female.” I’d been invited to see a performance by women participating in Journey Home — one of many community outreach programs of ASU Gammage in Tempe, which is headed by executive director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack.

We use lots of labels to describe people who’ve been incarcerated. Criminal. Loser. Nobody. And worse. We rarely think of women in jail as women first. Or mothers. But plenty of people living behind bars are parents, including two mothers I chatted with after this year’s Journey Home performance.

They’d gathered with other inmates in a small room filled with several desks — the kind with seat and surface attached, like those most of us used in grade school. A long table at one end held two-liter bottles of soda, plus plastic plates and cups. Also the cake that’d been cut and served in celebration of completing the Journey Home program.

Women participating in a community outreach program called Journey Home. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day with my family, I’m mindful of the women I met that day — especially the two mothers who spoke proudly of their children. One has custody of her children. Another does not, though she’s hoping to regain it. Both beamed when asked about their children, sharing their children’s accomplishments like so many of us do. Doing sports. Playing violin.

After arriving at Estella Jail, I joined several folks from ASU Gammage plus those who’ve worked with Journey Home participants, in a waiting area that’s perfectly welcoming but still feels a bit like the bland interior of a shoe box . I chatted with a woman seated next to me, a mental health provider who told me she wished more Journey Home programs were out there to curb the hopelessness that makes life after incarceration so tenuous.

Officials checked our identification before leading back to the room where 25 women, ages 23 to 50, would be performing and sharing a bit about their Journey Home adventures. We’d already been told to leave purses and other personal effects at home. Audience members filled several rows of chairs, admiring a line of self-portraits that ran across the wall while waiting for the women to arrive.

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Soon they entered, all wearing jail garb with wide horizontal black and white stripes, plus pink socks. The women performed several pieces featuring movement, stories and more — all met with warm and genuine applause. For six weeks prior to the performance, they’d met weekly for training in movement, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling.

The Journey Home program was inspired by a national prison project called Keeping the Faith, started by dancer/choreographer Pat Graney. It’s sustained by the partnership between ASU Gammage and Life Paradigms, a non-profit working to “educating and empowering women of color and their families.” Journey Home focuses on helping inmates to “develop tools to make positive choices” while encouraging them to “break the negative patterns of their lives.”

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

After the performance, several women spoke about the transformative nature of the Journey Home experience — and a common thread emerged. These women feel more confident, capable, caring and compassionate. They’re learning to believe in themselves and to imagine a future free of incarceration. The Journey Home program has served nearly 300 inmates during its first decade.

“Journey Home allows these women to develop creative tools that can help them make positive choices, and encourages them to break the negative patterns that lead to incarceration,” says Jennings-Roggensack. Ruth Acuna, an officer with Estrella Jail, says the program gives inmates a better understanding of their self worth. “We have seen the recitivism rate for the women who participate in this program significantly decrease.”

Fatima Halim (R) working with women at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Journey Home participants work with several folks from Life Paradigms, including executive director Fatimah Halim, who administers the program and works with inmates on creative writing and storytelling. Also program director Teniqua Broughton, who specializes in movement and theater arts — plus psychotherapist Imani Muhammad, who does visual arts.

After Journey Home participants finished their performance, those who’d been watching had a chance to share their reactions. Many, including Michael Reed, senior director of cultural participation and programming for ASU Gammage, spoke of being truly moved and inspired by the women’s journeys. Before the event drew to a close, each woman was asked to stand next to her own self-portrait.

A Journey Home participant reads from her work at Estrella Jail. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Many described their paintings, sharing both traumas from their past and dreams for their future. Then several of the women, now artists, handed their painting to a person in the audience whose earlier comments had stirred them somehow. It was a moving gesture, a gift genuinely appreciated. I hope so much for all the mothers of the world today. And for the mothers and daughters who shared such beautiful pieces of themselves with us that day. May they have a safe journey home.

— Lynn

Note: A 2006 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that 61% of people in state prisons and 44% of those in local jails have a mental health problem. Click here to learn more about mental health and prison policy.

Coming up: Silver linings

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

A mother’s diary

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I spent some time going through a book called “Diary Drawings” with my daughter Jennifer on Monday. The work by artist/author Bobby Baker (with daughter Dora Whittuck), subtitled “Mental illness and me,” won the 2011 Mind Book of the Year Award. It was first published in London in 2010, and it’s been impossible to find in local brick and mortar book shops — so Jennifer and James made the trek to ASU’s Hayden Library to find a copy for me.

The photograph of Baker adjacent to Marina Warner’s “Chronicle of a Life Repaired” (which introduces readers to Baker and her work) shows the artist standing with feet planted in a pair of casserole dishes. She’s wearing a skirt made of carrots, a top made of meat and potatoes and headgear made of three leafy greens. Before there was Gaga, there was Baker.

Warner writes that “BB’s audiences have always known that she has had excruciating troubles”– citing several of Baker’s works. A film called “Spitting Mad” and performance pieces like “Drawing on a Mother’s Experience,” “Take a Peek!” and “Box Story.” “Diary Drawings” follows Baker’s journey through borderline personality disorder.

Some elements get more ink than others in the collection of works culled for “Diary Drawings.” Blood. Flowing tears. Food. Confinement. Other people. And coffee mugs. My favorites feature a torso bearing a triangle-shaped wound, a woman watching discarded thoughts move down a conveyer belt, a group therapy session awash in muddy colors and the first pink blossom on a delicate tree. Jennifer took a liking to “Day 8” — because its flow of tears “looks like a veil.”

The book concludes with a pair of profound reflections — one by Baker, and another by her daughter. Baker’s “For the Record” discusses her own artistic inklings, the effect of mental illness on her family, the subject of art as therapy and reflections on the prejudice still plaguing those living with mental illness.

Dora Whittuck’s “Telling & Keeping Quiet” notes that “one of the most debilitating aspects of so-called mental illness is the embarrassment and fear it generates in others.” Dora and her brother Charlie were “scarcely more than children” when Baker’s diary drawings were born.

“Diary Drawings” is a window into the worlds of art, family and mental illness. It’ll inspire you to consider how your own life might look in drawings (and maybe even encourage you to start your own diary drawings), and to be more supportive of friends and family who face mental illness each day.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Baker’s drawings online (you can also order the book online), here to experience “Bobby Baker’s Daily Life” and here to enjoy photography by Andrew Whittuck (photographer for “Diary Drawings”). Click here to learn more about SAMHSA’s “Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health” campaign (May 9 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day).

Coming up: Art meets Mother’s Day

Heroes of Hope

Folks who hit First Friday in Phoenix tonight can enjoy a “Heroes of Hope” exhibit being held in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 9). “Heroes of Hope” exhibits in Arizona represent a collaboration between the Arizona Art Therapy Association, Art Awakenings and Marana Health — plus participating families and youth. The Phoenix exhibit will be open during May at the Art Awakenings gallery located at 1014 N. 2nd St. Gallery hours are 6-9pm during this month’s First Friday.

Participating youth created works of art “representing heroes in their lives and how they have been helped in times of stress.” May’s First Friday event at the Art Awakenings gallery includes “a multimedia presentation with art imagery and facts about children’s mental health.”

A “Heroes of Hope” art fair taking place May 11 at the Marana Health Center ” will be formatted much like a science fair” and feature art created by K-12 students. Children who attend will be invited to create hand and footprints with paint for a “Wall of Heroes” being sent to service men and women deployed from Davis-Monathan Air Force Base. I’m told the event also features “interactive stations and information.”

Click here to learn more about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day — a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. I’m one taxpayer who’s perfectly happy to support programs that help families living with depression and other devastating mental health disorders.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore “Facts for Families” from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Click here to explore explore a piece from The Guardian featuring artwork created by participants in London’s CoolTan Arts programs.

Coming up: Silver linings, Dance meets documentary

Painting meets personality

What happens when a writer trades pen for paintbrush?

There’s a pathetic little poppy sitting in the garden I once tended with more care. I began wishing one morning that I’d done more to keep it blooming. I wanted to study every detail of its petals and stems, hoping it’d help me “get it right” during a painting party I was attending later that day.

I got to pondering the potential for painting to reveal one’s personality when first invited to the affair. Agreeing to paint with a group of peers meant several things. At the very least, they’d see my work. Worse still, they might judge it. Or me. It wouldn’t be perfect. And that felt intolerable.

Still I agreed — though saying “yes” seemed a monumental act of courage. Learning to let go is a good thing. I know this in theory, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I arrived late, after a morning appointment, to find most were about halfway through their painting.

I dived in, chatting nervously while attempting to allay my own insecurities. My level of painting prowess lies somewhere between color by numbers and just let ‘er rip. Once I had paintbrush in hand, my concerns about making a masterful finished product melted away.

Instead I enjoyed the feeling of drawing my brush across the canvas, of capturing new bits of color off the paper plate that served as my palette. I loved the movement, and began to remember earlier experiences, like dancing and speed skating, that elicited similar emotions.

Still, I was disappointed with the finished product — which I decided to call “Patriotic Poppies.” Too much blue, Too much white. I vowed to “fix it” once I got home. But my daughter Jennifer got ahold of it first — approaching me one morning with painting in hand.

She noticed the things I liked best about the work. Paint applied thickly. A streak of red through the yellow sunset. I shared that painting the poppies had reminded me of her, because they’ve always been one of her favorite flowers and they’re plentiful in parts of Northern California we’ve traveled together.

Jennifer smiled when I gave her the painting, sharing that she’d been planning to ask me whether she could have it after I died. “I’m glad I don’t have to wait,” she told me. Me too.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Carrie Curran Art Studios, where all sorts of art is in bloom

Coming up: Dance by the dozen

Art awakenings

Works created through the Art Awakenings program which are being exhibited at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottdale through Feb. 28

I headed up to the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale Thursday morning to enjoy an exhibit of art works created through Art Awakenings, a program of the PSA Behavioral Health Agency that’s designed to “promote empowerment and recovery through the power of creative expression with adults and youth who face behavioral health challenges.”

Works by adult artists in the Arts Awakening program are being exhibited at ASU Kerr Cultural Center through Feb. 28 — and you can enjoy additional works, created by young and adult artists at several Art Awakenings studios, at various venues throughout the Valley. Enjoy these photos of works exhibited at ASU Kerr Cultural Center…

“Broken Pieces of Happiness” by Chris Valdez, who wrote: I had a dream that I was walking along a beautiful landscape, and as I walked it started to crack.

“Seeking Enlightenment” (detail) by Eeny Hamlin, who wrote: Between the sea and sky she meditates to connect her mind with the powers of the universe…The artist was striving for serenity, strength, and hope.

“Donkey on the Roof” by Alfred Mendoza

“Enigma V” (detail) by B Hill

“Fire” by Ignacio Biancas, who wrote: The painting represents me being bold and strong, it represents me expressing the intensity and passion I have within, and the expression that I feel I need to get out.

“Guardian of the Path to the Crescent” by Vincent Cienfuegos

” Inner Worlds” by Amy B. Young

“Jesus and His Horse” (detail) by Alfred Mendoza

“Guardian of the Path to the Crescent” by Vincent Cienfuegos (left), “Pristine Ocean” by Jayne Kerr Turconi (top), “Arctic Adventure” by Cheryl (bottom) and “King Kong” (right) by Kendall Tewers

“Pequento Rio Colorado” by Jon Hansen

“Sunflower” by Tammy Palomino, who wrote: I have been painting flowers for many years…I love to paint them up close, to show not just the colors but the workings of a flower. The stamen, pollen and insects, which are necessary for their existence.

“Willie Nelson” by Jayne Kerr Turconi

“Punk Dudes Go to see Sound of Music” by Lori Wilson

“Sunset Kokopelli” by B Hill, who wrote: My paintings reflect the joy, excitement and satisfaction that I experience while creating. I live to paint, each painting is an original one of a kind investment in happiness.

Most of the works pictured above are for sale. Click here to learn more about Art Awakenings, find additional exhibits of Art Awakenings works or get details about donating supplies or purchasing pieces of art. Click here for information on upcoming exhibits and performances at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Finding art in Fountain Hills, Festival celebrates Black History Month, Cholla meets cherry blossom

Free art classes for veterans

While so many of us were enjoying Thanksgiving with our families, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and her husband Capt. Mark Kelly were serving meals to military veterans at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. It’s a reminder to us all of the many veterans and active duty military personnel who deserve our heartfelt thanks not only on Thanksgiving, but every single day of the year.

Hal Stewart teaches sculpting to a Valley veteran

The American Healing Arts Foundation, founded by Judi Combs, is “dedicated to serving U.S. veterans by providing free art classes, including supplies, along with art therapy by certified and licensed art therapists.” They serve veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army National Guard – who can sign up now for 2012 art classes and art therapy. Also horse therapy provided in partnership with Phoenix-based “Horses Help.”

Combs is CEO of  “Thunderbird Artists and Arizona Fine Art EXPO ” which produces several juried fine art festivals each year – including the “Talking Stick Fine Art & Wine Festival” taking place 10am-5pm Nov. 25-27 at the Talking Stick Stadium in Scottsdale.  The AHAF website notes that event proceeds are “going to AHAF to support U.S. veterans and active duty military personnel.”

To learn more about the American Healing Arts Foundation, visit www.americanhealingartsfoundation.com.

— Lynn

Coming up: The fine art of rock ‘n’ roll, Nods to nostalgia