Art and wellness class at Mulvane Art Museum brings healing environment to Washburn

Brandon Bills

Sometimes creative expression is just what the doctor ordered.

“This one I like,” said Linda Martin, pointing at the painting for which she is most proud, a nighttime scene of a river. She then turned and pointed to her painting of a penguin on an adjacent wall of the gallery, laughing as she described it as “preschool art.”

Martin never had an interest in art until taking part in an Art and Wellness class at Mulvane Art Museum. Now she proudly displays her work for all to see.

Art and Wellness is a free art class for St. Francis cancer patients underwritten by the St. Francis Health Center and Foundation. Participants in the class are current or former cancer patients, as well as their friends and family members. The class has been meeting on Thursday nights since February 2007.

“It’s a never ending collaboration that has turned into this wonderful thing,” said Brogan Lasley, educational coordinator and instructor of art education.

On Friday evening, the Mulvane Art Museum and St. Francis Health Center hosted “Embracing the Healing Power of Creativity,” an exhibit of St. Francis Comprehensive Cancer patients’ artwork in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk. Patients and supporting family members showcased their watercolor and ceramic pieces.

The class offers a healing environment where participants support each other while expressing themselves creatively.

“They can talk about whatever is going in their lives,” said art instructor Jane Hanni. “It’s a place you can come in and be a whole person.”

Patients are at all stages of recovery, from those undergoing treatment to those who have gone into remission. Hanni said that some people have come to class straight from chemotherapy sessions.

“I don’t know how they do it,” said Hanni.

While Martin enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new, she said the camaraderie was the best part. Though the participants are from different walks of life, they share a common bond.

“We know what each other has been through, but you don’t have to sit around and talk about it, ” said Martin.

“We provide encouragement and support to each other,” said class member Michelle Desmarteau. “The artwork has come as an added benefit.”

Hanni attributes the class’ success to the healing power of art and creativity, which produces more than just artwork.

“We spend as much time laughing as painting,” said Hanni.