The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 23, 2014

'A bridge to the soul' | 'Art of healing' reflects creative expressions from patients

JOHNSTOWN — A cutting-edge exhibition designed to raise awareness of art therapy and foster an understanding of its benefits for physical and mental health is on display.

“The Art of Healing Exhibition: Reflections 2014” is on view through June 6 at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown.

The museum has collaborated with Conemaugh Health System’s Healthcare Partnership Program to conduct an exhibit of work stemming from an initiative to help area residents experiencing mental and physical disabilities.

Under the program, patients have the opportunity to work with a number of professional artists during their residencies at the John P. Murtha Neuroscience and Pain Institute, 1450 Scalp Ave. in Richland Township.

The works in the exhibition were created during two residencies with SAMA directory artist Kathy Trexel Reed, a papercutting artist.

During the residencies, Reed shared papercutting methods, including Polish Wycinanki, a colorful and exuberant technique.

Reed has been active with the Guild of American Papercutters since 1996.

“Learning folk art techniques like Polish Wycinanki resulted in charming, honest, personal and creative expressions,” Reed said.

“It was an exciting experience for me, and I think it demonstrated the restorative potential in the concept of the Art of Healing program.”

According to Jessica Campbell, SAMA education coordinator, Reed’s residencies provided an interesting backdrop to the exhibition.

“Kathy Reed inspired the participants from day one of the residency,” Campbell said.

“She created a rapport with the patients and helped them learn a new and exciting art form.”

Campbell described the exhibition as a compilation of imaginative minds and concise cuttings.

SAMA’s museum health-care partnership relies on a directory of artists trained through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The artists range from storytellers, dancers, musicians, painters and wood-carvers. SAMA uses this group of artists to send into schools and health-care facilities.

“Health-care facilities can send in request forms asking for artists to come to their facility for a 10- or 20-day period,” Campbell said.

“SAMA matches half of the funds and the facility is asked to match half of the cost.”

Conemaugh and SAMA collaborate to decide which artist would be a good fit for a particular healing program.

Since its inception, the partnership program has benefited more than 1,000 individuals throughout central and western Pennsylvania.

Barbara Duryea, research and development director for the neuroscience institute, said the impact of the arts is evidence- based, meaning that research supports the positive effect that participation in the arts can have on many individuals.

“This year marks the 10th anniversary for our Art for Healing program, and I believe the success and continuation of this program supports the benefits the participants experience,” she said.

Holistic healing through artistic expression offers “a bridge to the soul.”

“For some, this is a new discovery,” Duryea said.

“Participants share that the process and social interaction results in improved mood, decreased pain and increased confidence and hope. It gives ability to see oneself as something beyond their medical condition.”

SAMA’s museum health-care partnership is growing with the help of funding from organizations.

“We held a record 13 residencies for the 2012-13 year,” Campbell said.

“Facilities are recognizing the importance of this type of program. It can help patients to relax, temporarily forget their troubles and more importantly use the arts as a creative outlet.”

Patients from the neuroscience and pain institute participated in two 10-day residencies.

Nearly 40 works have been created by patients during the initiative.

The art that is featured in this exhibition stems from the work created during the two residencies, which were both led by Trexel Reed.

“She really had this group working hard and it shows in the beautiful paper cuts they created,” Campbell said.

“There will be an installation piece created by all participants as well as individual projects.”

None of the art is for sale.

The museum will host an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

The reception is open to the public free of charge, though reservations are requested by Monday.

The exhibit was made possible by donations and a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The museum is open to the public free of charge.

Reservations: 269-7234.


What: “The Art of Healing Exhibition: Reflections 2014.”

When: Through June 6.

Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

Opening reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Admission: Free.

Information: 269-7234.

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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