Cancer affects lives in many different ways, and if you’re reading this, chances are, you’ve been affected by and/or known someone who has dealt with cancer. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that cancer is not simply a physical battle. There are a lot of emotional components to fighting cancer or supporting a loved one through the terrible disease.
Recently, through a friend who has battled breast cancer, I learned about a local organization that uses art therapy to help individuals and families who are dealing with cancer. You may have heard of The Art of Life Cancer Foundation, as they recently broke ground on a Healing Garden at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Every year, Art of Life pairs cancer survivors and family members with local artists to create special projects on canvas. The groups of three or four pick a cohesive theme that speaks about their battle with cancer and work with their artistic director to create their own individual canvases over the course of several meetings.
Much like my experience with Paint Nite, participants with Art of Life don’t need to have any painting skills. It’s more about the act of these men, women and children meeting together to express their cancer experiences through art and to support one another on their journeys. Great and lasting relationships can be formed through these groups, for example, between a woman who is a 15-year breast cancer survivor and someone who is newly diagnosed.
According to Art of Life, the project “helps survivors focus on positive life experiences, relieving preoccupation with cancer; strengthens self-worth and identity; fosters a social connection that builds their mind and spirit while resisting being defined by cancer; and provides an opportunity to express feelings in a symbolic manner.”
A walk through the halls of the building where the Art of Life office is housed shows an eclectic mix of cancer stories expressed through all kinds of inspiring and beautiful pieces. Each group of paintings has a plaque explaining the thought and meaning behind the project. The art is displayed in various buildings around the city for a year, until the next class of art projects is completed.
Participants and friends can purchase their art pieces on pendants, greeting cards and more, with all funds going back to the Art of Life Cancer Foundation. After the year is up, the artists can get their pieces back. Eventually, replicas will be displayed at the Art of Life Healing Garden. The garden, located near the dog park, has a path in the shape of a cancer support ribbon, and a local Kiwanis group is currently working on installing some natural play structures for children (think tunnels that look like logs).
There are many ways that you can get involved in Art of Life. If you’re a cancer survivor or family member who wants to be a part of the canvas program next year, you can contact Art of Life here for more information. Artists who would like to become artistic directors can apply here. Volunteers can sign up to help with projects like the Healing Garden here. And finally, monetary donations are always welcome. You can even make a donation towards an item to honor someone you love or your own cancer journey in the Healing Garden.
I hope you’ll spread the word about the Art of Life Cancer Foundation to your family and friends. Check out their Facebook page here. You can always drop by their office at 6121 North Thesta in Fresno to view some of the amazing art in person! I look forward to seeing what they have in store for Healing Garden and all of their projects in the coming year!
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