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PDF in the News

Erwin's Artwork Chosen to Decorate Calendar

Sam Erwin can’t remember a time when she hasn’t doodled, but she never really envisioned a time she’d be sharing her creative work with others. But because she found the courage to “put (herself) out there,” people near and far will be able to see how important — and therapeutic — art has become to her.

Erwin, of West Des Moines, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, is one of 13 artists whose work was selected to appear in the 2012 Creativity and Parkinson’s calendar sponsored by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Her pastel drawing, “My Heart Overflows,” is featured in February.

Erwin, 55, couldn’t be more surprised by the turn her life has taken.

“I became aware of and connected with the calendar through a friend I had met at a Parkinson’s conference in Chicago, and I finally was able to be brave enough to put myself out there and submit something,” Erwin said. “I thought some people might say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty,’ but I never imaged it would be chosen. This has been an honor.”

Erwin, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological disorder, in her early 40s, has long regarded art as enjoyable and therapeutic — but she had been reluctant to “bother” others with her drawings.

“I would often sit for as long as two hours doing pieces, but the majority never made it anywhere but the recycling box,” she said. “I would do something, then throw it aside — and repeat that pattern over and over. Occasionally I’d finish one and think, ‘Oh, I’m going to keep this one.’ It was always a surprise to want to do that.”

Erwin said during the time she’s lived with Parkinson’s, she’s been drawn to research the way art can affect people with the disease, and she began to realize that expression through art often demonstrates therapeutic results.

“When you’ve had this sort of diagnosis, people always ask you how you are, and everyone usually responds by saying, ‘Oh, I’m just fine,’ ” she said. “You can’t always bring yourself to talk about the way things really are, but communicating through art allows us to be who we are.

“In my case, sometimes my hands shake. But you know what’s interesting about that? When my hands shake, the picture changes.”

Erwin said she doesn’t know how many other calendars or similar projects she’ll contribute to in the future, but she’s parlayed her feelings about art into an offshoot of her career. She works as a spiritual director, meeting one-on-one with people who want to explore issues in their lives, but she also conducts groups in which people use art as expression.

“I’ve begun looking seriously at art therapy and making that available to people,” said Erwin, who holds a master’s degree from Drake University in rehabilitative counseling. “When you’re sitting across a table from five or six other people and using color, that can be a lot of fun.”

Erwin, who also completed a two-year program in spiritual formation through the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, will facilitate some classes next month that are specifically for people with Parkinson’s, but she also hosts weekly groups that anyone is welcome to attend.

“I take six people at a time, and we focus on spirituality, art and movement,” she said. “Sometimes I ask people to doodle using their non-dominant hand. We focus on intentions and feelings and what our day was like. Then I introduce whatever medium I choose for them to use — paint, charcoal, any number of things.”

She said she tries to help people focus on creativity in their daily lives, whether they’re painting pictures or simply mowing the lawn a certain way, or baking bread.

“Art has changed my heart, and I love to see the same thing happen for others,” she said.

Robin Elliott, executive director of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, said in a news release that the group is grateful to Erwin for her contribution to the calendar.

“Her works, those of the 12 other individuals featured in the calendar and the more than 300 in (an) online gallery have inspired those affected by Parkinson’s who come to PDF looking not only for information, but also for hope,” Elliott said.

“We’re hopeful that by creating a space for Ms. Erwin’s works and those of other people living with Parkinson’s, we can begin a conversation about the reports of beneficial effects of creativity.”

 

Note from PDF:

Sam Erwin, mentioned in the news story above, is a member of PDF's Creativity and Parkinson's Project. The Creativity and Parkinson's Project, encourages those living with Parkinson’s to explore their creativity and its potentially beneficial effects. More than 300 individuals have shared their works on our online gallery.

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Source Date: Mar 17 2012
Source Publication: DesMoinesRegister.com | By Lisa Lavia Ryan
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