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Arts therapy aids patient ailments at local museum

By Kyle Hayden, For The Miami Student

The Miami University Art Museum opened an exhibition last week that touches on the various kinds of therapies related to the arts. "Revealing the Light Within: the healing power of expressive arts," is on show now until Dec. 6.

In the gallery, two of its primary spaces are dedicated to revealing the stories of those who explored the arts as a means of recovery after illness, trauma or loss of a loved one. Known as "expressive arts therapies," these "modalities" include painting, drawing, drama, creative writing and music, in which the patient creates works of art and participates in plays or music performance as an alternative to traditional conversation-based therapy.

According to Sherri Krazl, coordinator of marketing and communications at the museum, one of the inspirations for the show was a South Carolina artist named Harry Hansen, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in his late fifties. After his diagnosis, Hansen could not draw or paint for five years. He returned to painting and drawing through his wife's suggestion. His sense for composition, color treatment and line were rebuilt. Although Hansen could not verbally express himself, drawing and painting became an important vehicle for communication.

"There are some very powerful stories here," Krazl said.

The works of other artists and non-artists alike are on display, some coming from an angle of loss, in which painting and drawing, as well as sculpture and writing, helped the patient overcome the immense grief of losing a loved one. Another was a cancer patient struggling with the pain of chemotherapy and the image issues associated with hair loss during treatment.

There was another side of arts therapies, which do not create tangible results. These modalities included dance, music and theatre or drama. The patients actively participated in stage plays, music performance and poetry reading. Photographs of patients in treatment are displayed with asides and anecdotes from the therapists themselves, as well as testimony from the patients.

The museum will be hosting programs associated with the exhibit wherein drama therapists David and Lisa Peacock will speak about "Building a therapeutic community: Helping veterans recover from homelessness" at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18 . At 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 28, Dee Hansen and Susan Hansen Staves will talk on Harry Hansen's "Immutable Passion: an artist's life with vascular dementia."