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New Exhibit Reveals the Healing Power of Art

Creatives show how art has helped them deal with drug addiction, Parkinson's disease, and more.

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Some men, in the midst of a midlife crisis, turn to fast cars and younger women. Mike Hamers turned to vodka. At age 50, the Gunbarrel resident felt underwhelmed with his life, sunk into a deep depression, and turned to alcohol to help temper his disappointment and regret. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Hamers to realize the answer to his problems wasn’t at the bottom of a bottle. The only way he could turn his life around, he knew, was to focus on the passion he’d always wished he’d pursued: art.

Four years later, the Dairy Arts Center is playing host to some of Hamers’ work, along with that of others who have found solace through art, in an exhibition he curated called Art As Medicine: Artists in Recovery (on display in the McMahon Gallery until February 26). This is the third show Hamers has curated under the umbrella title of “Artists in Recovery,” but the first two were only open to those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. He eventually realized that art seemed to help a wide swath of those suffering from illness or trauma, from survivors of sexual assault to those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. So for this exhibit, more than 30 artists, most of whom hail from Colorado, have produced fiber sculptures, woodwork, photographs, pastels, mixed media, and more to illustrate their struggles and the ultimate redemption they found in the creative process.

“People who can’t find their voice or are afraid to speak or don’t know how to talk about their problems can express themselves creatively through symbology, through color, through the boldest of brush strokes,” Hamers says. “Whatever it is they have to work out, they can get it out of their system through art but can also use it as a tool to get people to understand what they went through.”

That’s certainly the case for Joy Redstone, director of the counseling center at Boulder’s Naropa University. Her mixed-media collage, “Springtime on Sugarloaf” (see in slideshow above), incorporates bullet casings that her family collected while walking on Sugarloaf Mountain—before her husband committed suicide. “Following [that event,] my heart opened, not only to grief but also to beauty,” reads Redstone’s artist statement, which is on display next to her piece in the exhibit. “Every piece of art [I make] carries the same message: That beauty is in the small things, in broken things re-purposed for a new life, that patterns not always immediately discernible can arise when one steps back and seeks perspective.”

Don’t Miss: Michael A. Franklin, chair of the art therapy program at Naropa University, will give a free lecture tonight at 6:30 p.m. on the role of art in the healing process in conjunction with the exhibit.


Follow assistant editor Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.

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