This past weekend my husband and I made a kind of pilgrimage to see this art exhibit, Hope and Healing, held at the Baum School of Art in Allentown, PA.
Two years ago, almost exactly, I visited that year’s version of the exhibit. I was in the midst of my three years of illness and surgeries, and I was still going downhill when I viewed it. In fact, I’d say the low point of my journey occurred right after this trip, and I remember very well my state of mind and body. The art and the theme of the exhibit made quite an impression on me and I remembered it later on as I struggled to get better.
Now it’s two years later. After two hand surgeries (for a very rare and antibiotic resistant infection), three eye surgeries (retina and cataracts), a broken foot and hearing loss (due to medication complications), and depression and anxiety brought on by the uncertainties of my situation, I am doing well. When I got the information about the exhibit I knew I needed to go and see it.
It was held in two galleries at the Baum School of Art. The exhibit is an activity of Healing Through the Arts, an organization started by a local woman after her bout with cancer. The artists are all high school and college students and the purpose behind their art is to create a work that would bring hope and healing to someone who is ill. After the exhibit, the works go to various health sites and offices, free, so that they may be on view to the people who need them. Here is how the galleries looked, full of art.
We spent quite a lot of time looking at each piece and reading the artists’ statements. I was struck by the heartfelt work that had gone into each piece – they were all thought out, with care, and with layers of meaning. Obviously the artists took the task very seriously. Some of them referred to their own experiences with illness and others mentioned family or friends. And, they also cited family and friends as a source of strength for them in hard times, as well as nature and a connection with a spiritual world.
The founder of Healing Through the Arts, Heather Rodale, tells her story on the organization’s website and she mentions the concept of being cured vs. being healed. I know this well myself. I have aftereffects from my own ordeal that are permanent, but – I am healed, and I keep on going. That is the message I took away from this exhibit, and I am really grateful that it exists to have shown me this, both in the past and now.
After viewing the rooms, I took pictures of artwork that particularly spoke to me. I spent lots of time in a lot of different doctor’s offices in the past three years and I often did not hear good news. I think these pieces would have certainly brightened my spirit in those circumstances. But I also want to say, I could not photo all the pieces, and honestly, I am sure that any one of them would have helped me along my way.
I have included these examples plus the words of their artists. Please forgive the photos, it was not always easy to do justice to the piece. Take your time to look them over and read the words, too, if you have time. I think you will see what I mean about the experience of viewing this art.