|ARTiculate program volunteers Eddie and Fran Garfinkle share their love of art with a few lucky NRH adult patients.|
It takes hard work to rebuild an independent life after illness and injury. Every day NRH patients struggle to push themselves through the rigorous physical regimens that will help them return to their families and communities. Sometimes, however, exercising their imaginations can be “just what the therapist ordered.”
ARTiculate does just that. The arts appreciation and experience program is sponsored by the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum in Bethesda, Maryland, a privately owned museum that houses the work of artists from around the world, including the sculpture of co-founder Phillip Ratner. Twice monthly, volunteers from ARTiculate come to the hospital to give NRH patients the opportunity to step out of themselves and their recovery to simply make art.
For an hour, they paint and draw, some of them for the first time in their lives. For others, who had enjoyed making art in the past, it’s the proof they need to know that one day they will paint again.
“Psychologically it’s a real boost for patients, giving them a chance to think creatively,” says Joan Joyce, NRH recreation therapist. “Painting helps them improve fine motor skills, as well. Participants represent the broad range of issues from stroke, brain injury to spinal cord injury. So when necessary, we will help with any adaptive equipment patients may need in order to paint.”
“We aren’t giving lessons,” says Fran Garfinkle, who, along with her husband Eddie, volunteers as an arts educator for the museum. “We are introducing art to patients, sharing examples of some of the greatest pictures ever painted and asking them to create their own interpretations of what they see.”
The result is a mix of very original art, much of which returns with the Garfinkles to the museum, with permission from the artists.
Some of the best work has been produced by the children in the National Center for Children's Rehabilitation at NRH. At one recent session, six-year-old Ivan, who suffered a stroke, picked up his brush and quickly executed a landscape of yellow flowers. “Painting and kids just go together. They don’t hesitate and leap right in to enjoy the experience,” Joyce says. The results of their labors are evident in the paintings and mural hanging in a corner of the recreation therapy room on the hospital’s third floor.
“But everyone, kids and adults alike, enjoy the sessions. It’s a way to explore a part of themselves that may have been shut down for some time, and simply enjoy doing something different,” Joyce adds. “And while it also has therapeutic value, the experience is always just plain fun.”