By Rita J. Egan
The North Shore Art Guild is exhibiting for a cause. From Nov. 3 to 27, the organization will present Artists United in the Fight Against Cancer, at the Port Jefferson Village Center. The exhibition will benefit the Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Art Therapy Program. Mac Titmus, president of The North Shore Art Guild, said 30 percent of the event sales will go toward the program. With a decline in federal and state funding, the raised funds will help the cancer center avoid cuts in the program.
The center offers therapeutic programs to provide relief from pain, fatigue, boredom and stress for both children and adult patients. Titmus said the guild invited both members and nonmembers to submit work for the exhibit demonstrating the theme Through the Eyes of a Child. The guild president said when it comes to shows such as this one the group looks for a broad theme for the artists to work with. “We always try to think of a theme that is going to inspire the artists, and being that this is something to do with young children in the oncology unit, we try to visualize how the world would look through the eyes of a child,” he said.
The show, juried by local accomplished artist Linda Louis, will feature 98 pieces from 67 artists. According to Titmus, the artwork was chosen from 118 submissions, and the selection represents a mixture of mediums including watercolors, acrylics, photography, mixed media and more.
Healing through art therapy
Stephanie Condra, a licensed creative arts therapist who works with oncologists and bone marrow transplant patients at Stony Brook, said art therapy is instrumental in allowing patients to express their feelings during treatment and hospitalization as well as providing important coping skills. “It can be very psychotherapeutic in nature. It can do a lot of processing of thoughts and feelings of fear and anxiety and anger, as well as actively in the moment give something very positive to focus on,” she said. According to the therapist, in addition to creating art, this type of therapy provides other creative choices including working with a patient using guided visualization, playing music or even talking in imagery and metaphor. Condra said patients can experience a lot of anxiety when it comes to their treatment and future. “I think that’s one of the great benefits of art therapy, that they get much more of a choice and control in what is going on in that moment, when a lot feels out of control with the treatment.”
Finding the words through art
Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, agrees with the benefits for patients when given a choice with art, and she said therapists who work with pediatric patients also offer games and playing with objects. “It’s both providing different kind of choices to people where choices of course are being taken away, and it’s also providing the opportunity to kind of normalize an experience, where, of course, necessarily medicine and medical protocol take first stage.”
Alpers said communicating through art is an important tool when it comes to pediatric patients. “Sometimes what happens is children just don’t have the words for things. They just don’t have the capacity to tell us how they are feeling or what’s going on or put it in words. But they certainly can make us a picture or show us in their play,” she said.
In addition to the guild’s exhibit on the second floor of the Village Center, Alpers and Condra said on the third floor artwork from pediatric patients will be on display in the hope that art lovers will be able to relate to the need for such a program. “Kids are filled with life even when they are sick, and kids want to paint and make and do, even while they are dealing with their treatments for cancer and devastating illnesses,” said Alpers, adding, “A lot of the work that we’ll show from the kids is bright and airy and beautiful, because that’s what kids need to be and do in order to create hope, in order to make a pleasant day out of a difficult day.”
Making a difference
Titmus said even though cancer can be a difficult subject, the guild has a goal in addition to raising money when visitors come to the exhibit. “We’re hoping that they understand a little bit more about art therapy,” he said. The art guild president said the goal is to donate $20,000 to the cause. In addition to the funds raised with event sales, the guild, which includes 140 members, has already begun raising money for the art therapy program through private donations and sponsorships by reaching out to local businesses and corporations. Artists also paid an entrance free of $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers to be considered as part of the show, and these fees will also go toward the donation.
The exhibit, which is presented in cooperation with Stony Brook Cancer Center, the Village of Port Jefferson and the Port Jefferson Conservancy, will feature a reception on Nov. 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. where many of the artists will be on hand. Raffles will be sold to raise additional funds and among the prizes are four one-day passes to Disney World and a chef’s dinner from Ruvo East in Port Jefferson. Both Condra and Alpers feel that events such as this help patients by acknowledging their journeys, something that is important to those suffering from cancer. “When they hear that there are people in their own community that are there behind them, I think that’s extremely valuable and extremely important in terms of their care, their hope and their resilience,” Alpers said.
The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except holidays. For more information, call 631-802-2165 or visit www.northshoreartguild.com.