‘The Art of Healing’ | SAMA-Johnstown reopens with exhibition of patients’ creations | Features

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A therapeutic approach to creativity is being showcased in this exhibition.

“The Art of Healing: Reflections 2022” will be on display through Aug. 7 at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus in Richland Township.

Kristin Miller, SAMA’s education coordinator and SAMA-Ligonier site director, said the exhibition marks the reopening of SAMA-Johnstown after ongoing COVID-19 concerns closed the facility.

“It’s a long time coming, and we are so excited to be able to offer this exhibition again,” she said.

“I’m sure our artists are excited as well to be able to do this.”

The exhibition features 45 works created by patients during SAMA’s Museum Healthcare Partnership Program residencies at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

The works in “The Art of Healing” exhibit, created during a program that is now in its 19th year, were created during the residencies with SAMA teaching artist Rita Haldeman in 2019 and 2020.

Since the inception of the partnership in 2003, SAMA’s trained artists and educators work with health care providers to develop residencies and workshops aimed at providing relief for patients dealing with physical pain and discomfort.

During the residencies, patients have the opportunity to learn various artistic disciplines, including painting, sculpting, puppetry, dance, collage and storytelling.

The program has been expanded to include working with veterans and seniors, as well as to place greater emphasis on senior citizens and people with mental impairments.

To date, the program has benefited more than 10,000 individuals throughout central and western Pennsylvania.

“Art can be very therapeutic, and there’s a lot of science behind it and it triggers certain centers in the brain,” Miller said.

“There’s certain chemicals in the brain that, when you’re painting, it sends out dopamine and other chemicals that block the nerve centers, plus it focuses you on other things so you’re not focusing on the pain so much. It’s a tried-and-true alternative, and we’ve had nothing but success when it comes to this program.”

The show features paintings done in acrylic, oil, watercolor and pastels.

“We have a little bit of everything on display, and it’s wonderful to see,” Miller said.

“It’s really a good expression of each person’s personality and a reflection of who they are and their soul. It also shows what they are going through.”

She said the exhibit has a variety of work, including florals, animals and abstract pieces.

“They are wonderful, and it’s stunning work,” Miller said.

“It’s all very positive, and that’s the nice thing. I’m just amazed at the quality of the work.”

Haldeman is a directory artist with SAMA and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for the Artist-in-Residence Program.

She has won numerous awards and has taught adult education classes and workshops.

Haldeman is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painter Association and the Pittsburgh Pastel Artist League, and her paintings are included in private and corporate collections throughout the United States and represented by numerous galleries.

She received a bachelor’s degree in art from Penn State University, pursued graduate studies at Vermont Studio School and Colony and studied at Cape School of Art.

“The successful longevity of the Conemaugh Arts for Health program is directly attributable to the positive impact it has on the program participants,” said Barbara Duryea, clinical support manager with Conemaugh Health System.

“You can see it in their body language and feedback on the program.”

Miller said the partnership between SAMA and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center is critical because it supports the community and the individuals who need it.

“It’s a vital program we want to continue, and I see this expanding in the future into different counties,” she said.

“This is one of my favorite shows to be able to display simply because I think it’s one of our most valuable programs we offer.”

Miller wants for those who view the show, to see that art is for everyone at any level.

“Hopefully, they can appreciate the art and individuals and their ability to express themselves,” she said.

“This is our humanity. We have this beautiful program and we want to see it supported.”

To celebrate the exhibition, an opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

“The hope is artists will be there to discuss their work and share what their thought process was, what spurred them on to create their piece and what they were thinking during that time,” Miller said.

“It’s a wonderful celebration of the work and the process. It’s a way for the clients to share together what they did and for everybody in the community to see the results of their efforts.”

The reception is open to the public free of charge.

The project is made possible through the AIE Partnership of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Gallery hours are noon to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There is no admission fee.

For more information, call 724-238-6015 or www.sama-art.org.



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