Gotta have he(art)


POSTED: Monday, November 02, 2009

Ninety-seven-year-old Oshino Okuda regularly attends painting classes at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific. Although her late husband was an artist, she was never allowed to paint. Her responsibilities included domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children.

“;Now it's my turn,”; she said. “;He wouldn't teach me, but I watched him ... and learned by watching. It's good fun.”;

Okuda claims that one of the best parts of the painting program is meeting new people and making friends. After all, she attributes her long life to “;being nice to people and smiling all the time.”;

A fellow painter, Buster Medeiros, attends class every other week with his longtime partner Bev Robello. He began painting using his mouth after a spinal cord injury, and Robello is his faithful assistant. “;She is there from the first stroke to the last stroke,”; he said.

The couple claims that art has dramatically changed their lives.





        Place: Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific

When: 5-8 p.m. Wednesday


Admission: Free


Call: 566-3451




“;This is such a positive environment. ... We bring that into all aspects of our lives,”; Robello said. For example, the couple often takes photographs in nature, and they engage in discussions relevant to art.

“;Art has changed the way I look at things in the world. That change is profound and forever,”; said Medeiros.

Medeiros was completing a painting that will be sold at the hospital's fundraiser, “;Art from the Heart,”; that takes place Wednesday evening in the hospital lobby. More than 500 works of art from patients, former patients and well-established community artists will be displayed and available for purchase. Artwork will range in price from $20 to $2,500. Ikebana arrangements, donated by Ohara School of Ikebana, will also be sold.

The annual fundraiser helps to support the Louis Vuitton Creative Arts Program, which allows patients to find emotional and physical healing through a creative outlet. Funds raised help offset the cost of the program, including professional art instructors, canvases, paints, brushes and other art supplies. All of the classes, offered five days a week, are free for patients and former patients.

About 700 people have participated in nearly 70,000 artist sessions since the program began in 1994.

“;This is a celebration of the artists' abilities, not disabilities,”; said Ko Miyataki, Rehab Foundation president.

Norma Walker painted prior to her stroke in 2007 and was pleased to start again.

“;I love bold, loud colors. They make me smile. Normally, I paint abstracts, but I'm trying something different,”; she said while at work depicting a still-life floral arrangement.

“;The painting program is priceless,”; said Dale Miyahira. “;If you have to sit upstairs in a bed, it's horrible. This is something different to do.”;

The painting studio provides a safe, supportive environment to navigate the challenges following a traumatic injury, said Tara Sullivan, the hospital's creative-arts program coordinator. “;Participation in the creative process is life-affirming medicine,”; she said.

The dialogue that goes on between the canvas and patient transfers to better communication with family and friends, she explained.

“;We see how the blank canvas becomes a metaphor for their recovery process,”; she said.”; The intimidation of the unknown can be overwhelming, but one stroke at a time, they begin to paint a new path in life.”;