‘Young Artists’ gives expression to rehab program

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YoungArtistsRehabProgram, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Posted on: Tuesday, August 16, 2005

‘Young Artists’ gives expression to rehab program

BY Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

When she was a volunteer in art therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, Natalie Parker, now 18, discovered the value of artistic expression.

Parker, who graduated this year from Punahou School, is not an artist herself. But her experience motivated her to organize “Young Artists Helping Young Artists,” an exhibit and fund-raiser tomorrow for the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific’s arts program.

“I asked my friends to help, and they’re donating their art to the cause,” said Parker. “I enjoy art and being around it; but I am not an artist. But I’m a pretty good organizer.”

One of Parker’s Punahou classmates, Paige Markham, 18, who is a photographer and a painter, is aboard as a volunteer. “I think it’s important to keep the artists going at Rehab,” Markham said. “Coping when you have pain, it’s important to have support for some kind of expression.”

Parker has a friend, Stefanie Bond, who struggles with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (a chronic, painful, and progressive neurological condition that affects skin, muscles, joints, and bones) and who found solace in art while undergoing rehab. Bond donated a couple of paintings to the cause.

“She really motivated me to do something positive,” said Parker, who is bound for the University of Denver restaurant school this fall.

Julia Engle, the Punahou student recovering from injuries when a 100-foot-tall Norfolk pine tree fell through her bedroom wall in Manoa last March, also participated in the arts program at rehab. The young student’s experience helped motivate Parker to put on the benefit.

“At a time in life when they don’t feel like doing much because of a lot of challenges, emotional and physical, the art program builds confidence and relationships,” said Ellen Matsumoto, program coordinator for the Louis Vuitton Creative Arts Program.

Julia is about to go back to school. “Her progress was amazing,” Matsumoto said.

Reuben Young, an artist and a sculptor, is the primary instructor in the on-site program, which is open to anyone who has been in rehab. Afternoon classes Mondays and Fridays welcome outpatients, who return to improve their physical dexterity, tap their creativity and work on hand-eye coordination.

“It’s very therapeutic,” said Matsumoto. “Most of the (patients) are not artists; the thing I often hear is ‘I don’t have talent, I have no skills.’ But those who never thought they were able to create a work of art find it amazing that they can.”

Wednesday sessions are held for in-house clients.

“What’s nice is that they’re here (in the art program) because they choose to be,” said Matsumoto. “Some are fast and furious; others take some time to finish a project. But we’ve seen oils, acrylics, mosaics, paperwork, clay projects and even sculpture.”

Rehab art hangs at the facility, 226 Kuakini St. in Nu’uanu. The art also has been shown at community events such as “Taste of Honolulu” and the Senior Fair at Blaisdell Center.

“What’s really wonderful is that once the artists get started, many of them don’t want to quit. We (the staff) have to stay on and let them work as late as possible,” Matsumoto said.

Parker said visiting the hospital cemented her determination to do the benefit. “The patients are so awesome, some painting even with the brush in their mouth,” she said. “They really express themselves despite their disabilities.”

Parker called art teachers in several local schools to inquire about potential artists who might share her support of the rehab program. She also had artist friends who rallied.

“I initially wanted to stage the event in an art gallery,” said Parker. But because she had worked as a hostess at Compadres, her former boss, owner Rick Enos, provided the space.

Artists are setting their own prices for the works; some are donating the full sale receipts to Rehab, others will give a portion. Parker and the rehab program are also receiving assistance from artist Peggy Chun and her organization, which will sell prints to benefit the program and raise funds for Chun, who is coping with Lou Gehrig’s disease and mounting medical expenses.

For the original article online, click here: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2005/Aug/16/il/508160303.html

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