April Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2014 Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the new submissions.

April Artist of the Month:
Carolyn Bowlus – Los Osos, CA

 View of Puget Sound by Carolyn Bowlus

“I grew up in a family of amateur artists, so it seemed natural to try my hand in the art world. I dabbled in acrylics and watercolors with a few art classes along the way.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 2000, I had visual and migraine issues which now come and go. When I am in remission I go back to my art hobbies with great enthusiasm. It is something I have to look forward to during the “down” times.”
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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Carolyn Bowlus and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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Connecting through Storytelling

By: Matt Cavallo

When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was afraid. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had this potentially disabling disease. I was afraid to tell my boss for fear of losing my job, and I was afraid to tell my friends because I didn’t want them to think of me differently. I started pushing away the few people in my life who did know what I was dealing with, because I was afraid of them seeing my condition progress. This included my wife. I was stuck in a deep depression. For all intents and purposes, my life post-diagnosis was being spent lying in my bed watching daytime reruns.

This all changed when my neurologist at the time in Boston asked me to come out and speak at a patient event. She wanted me to tell them the story that I had shared with her about how I got my dog. I was nervous. Not only had I not been telling people about my MS, but now I was going to be up on a stage talking to a big group of strangers about an intensely personal struggle that was raging inside me. That night came, and it changed my life forever.

In an instant, surrounded by a group of my peers living with multiple sclerosis, I realized that I wasn’t alone. By sharing my story that night, I felt a weight lift from me, as the people around me opened up and started sharing their story, too. I was no longer ashamed, embarrassed or depressed that I had MS and was not the man I used to be. Instead, I felt empowered and was embracing the opportunity to connect with others on the most personal of levels, united by this MS tie that binds us.

Sharing my story has opened up doors to places that I had never dreamed of before. It has taken me from coast to coast, putting me on TV, exercise DVDs, newspapers, radio shows, and even onstage in Las Vegas. Had I given up on myself back when I was diagnosed in 2005, I wouldn’t be living these dreams and ambitions that I never knew I had. While there have been many personal accomplishments since my diagnosis, it is always the personal encounters that I value the most.

This is just one example of thousands I have experienced on my journey:

At a restaurant next to the Savannah airport on one of my recent trips, I sat down next to a man who I would say was probably in his twenties. I turned and looked at him and asked, “What is good here?”

“Try the Tybee Island, and you can’t go wrong with a burger,” he replied.

I took his advice and complimented him on the local beer recommendation as we started talking. He was a pipefitter on a job assignment from South Carolina. He was missing his wife and little boy, but still had some time left on his job.

“What brings you to Savannah?” he asked.

“Storytelling,” I replied.

He was intrigued by my answer, so I explained to him that I go around to hospitals and talk to doctors, nurses, therapists, and other clinical staff about the patient experience-and that I also speak to patient and caregiver groups.

“So,” he says, “what kind of doctor are you?”

“I’m not,” I replied, “I’m a patient. I tell them the story of how I got my dog.”

He was captivated and wanted to hear the dog story. So, I told him the story of my symptoms, that I lost my ability to walk and go to the bathroom on my own, and how my diagnosis of MS led to my wife getting me a dog for my birthday, and ultimately my promise to walk him every day. I told him that it had been eight years since then, and I have still kept my promise. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he needed a story like mine on that night.

My food comes, and I order another beer. We go on to talk about the kids. He settles up his tab, shakes my hand and pats me on the back.

“It was great meeting you,” I said. He returned the sentiment.

I finish my burger and beer, then I ask the bartender for my bill. She turned and looked at me and said, “That man that just walked out paid for you and the tip.”

My jaw dropped. I wanted to thank him and say that it wasn’t necessary. I ran out to the parking lot, but he was gone. I couldn’t believe that a complete stranger, a kid in his twenties and someone who had never heard of MS, would surprise me with that selfless gesture. All I did was share my story with him.

Encounters such as this have reinforced to me the power of storytelling. Your story is your power. Many of us living with multiple sclerosis get stuck in the same depressive rut that I experienced when I was first diagnosed. When you are able to open up and share your story with others, you will realize that you are not alone. Each one of us living on this planet has some cross to bear. Ours just happens to have a name: MS. Sharing may make you vulnerable, but you’ll also find that when you open yourself up to others, you truly see the good in people. To the stranger in Savannah, thanks again for the burger and the beer. I will pay it forward.

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/

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February Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the MSAA Art Showcase submissions.

February 2014 Artist of the Month:
Lucinda Mierek – Anderson, SC

 Pretty Petals and Peaches by Lucinda Mierek

“My art has changed because of my fatigue and loss of concentration. My images used to be tight and are now loose. The content was edgier and is now more mainstream. However, my color use is getting better possibly because I’m losing my vision and am trying to compensate. I need more energy to do my art and haven’t figured out how to get it.

Even with my problems I feel fortunate. I still walk, drive, and tend to my yard.

My daughter and I still enjoy our time together. She pushes me to do more art. She seems to be my biggest fan!

‘Pretty Petals and Peaches’ is acrylic on matte board. It is very loose in comparison to the detailed older work of mine. I like the color usage of my “MS era.” I have learned to take life a little less intensely and use color more intensely. My work has changed for the better.”

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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Lucinda Mierek and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

MSAA’s Next Art Showcase for 2014

Thank you to all of the artists who were part of last year’s Art Showcase for artists with multiple sclerosis. The wonderful artwork and personal stories have been inspirational to many who have visited our online gallery and who have sent and received online art cards, celebrating the lives and talents of people living with MS.

MSAA will soon debut the 2014 Art Showcase in March as part of MS Awareness Month. So, get ready for some new artwork and stories to enjoy! As before, each month we will share with you an Artist of the Month with a new online card that you can send to friends and family to spread awareness of MS, while showcasing the wonderful talents displayed by artists with MS.

You still have time for one more look at last year’s collection! Then, get ready to enjoy the many new works to be featured in MSAA’s 2014 Art Showcase.

Check out the complete MSAA Art Showcase online gallery of artists with MS.

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January Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the MSAA Art Showcase submissions.

January 2014 Artist of the Month:
Michelle Hotchkiss – Palmer, AK

 Midst of Winter by Michelle Hotchkiss - send this Artist Card

“My name is Michelle Hotchkiss. I live on a small farm in a small town in Alaska with my husband, a very large dog and my dog-tolerant cat. I have two wonderful adult children and two of the cutest grandchildren ever born.

I finally had a diagnosis of MS in 1994 after years of odd symptoms. In 1994, I had a serious and scary attack which resulted in diagnosis of MS within days. It took a while, but I fortunately recovered and was able to return to work and lead a very active and outdoorsy lifestyle.”

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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Michelle Hotchkiss and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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Vote for your Favorite Thanksgiving Card & spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis

For the third year in a row, MSAA is conducting a Thanksgiving Card Competition! We have six online Thanksgiving Card candidates (shown below), all vying for the top spot as MSAA’s most-popular Thanksgiving Card for 2013.

Vote for your favorite Thanksgiving card

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please vote and then watch to see if your favorite card will emerge victorious! Once the voting is over next week and the selections are tallied, we’ll let everyone know which card is the top choice to email to friends and family, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

To vote for your favorite online card design, please visit our Thanksgiving election poll (or go to support.mymsaa.org/voteforcard).

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November Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2013 Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the MSAA Art Showcase submissions.

November 2013 Artist of the Month:
Julie Crow – Damascus, VA

Jack - Baby boy - artwork by Julie Crow

From the Artist:
“After a couple of really bad falls from lack of balance and coordination, resulting in hip pins and a broken pelvic bone, my companion, Gino, an accomplished oil painter, brought some pastel pencils and a drawing pad to the hospital for me to have something to focus all of my energy on while I was immobilized. In the hospital and inpatient rehab, I drew pictures of friend’s pets and relatives. The baby is a friend’s first grandson, and I drew this from a photo taken at the beach. She was always there for me during the hard times. I have also drawn a few others for folks to show my appreciation for their time and their love. I’ve created a Circle of Hope link with MSAA…the amazing thing is that I’ve never painted or drawn. I truly could not draw a stick man before this last incident. I haven’t lately due to some problems, but am hopeful for tomorrow.”

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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Julie Crow and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

Calling All Artists with MS:
It’s that time of year – MSAA is now accepting submissions for our 2014 Art Showcase! If you haven’t already done so, submit your best artwork by December 16th 2013 for a chance to be a part of next year’s Art Showcase.

Submit your artwork for the 2014 MSAA Art Showcase.

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MSAA’s Artist of the Month for September 2013

MSAA is very proud to present our 2013 Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the MSAA Art Showcase submissions.

September 2013 Artist of the Month:
David Desjardins – Union, ME
Windmill

 Windmill by David Desjardins

“I’ve always loved to paint, but my work schedule and other commitments always seemed to get in the way. When I received my MS diagnosis, it was difficult to remain positive and find anything to be happy about. As time went on and I wasn’t able to work anymore, it occurred to me one day that my inactivity could be a good thing because at last I had a chance to paint!

There is very little in my life I have control over now, but one thing I do have control over is my painting. Creativity has always been part of who I am, but aside from being able to create something beautiful, I can escape the realities I face through my art – even if it’s only temporary.”
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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist David Desjardins and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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MSAA’s Artist of the Month for August 2013

Presenting MSAA’s Artist of the Month for August 2013

MSAA is very proud to present our 2013 Art Showcase - celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the MSAA Art Showcase submissions.

August 2013 Artist of the Month:
Barbara Hall – Jersey Shore, PA

 Seaside by Barbara Hall

From the Artist:

“There are many faces to MS. I am one of those whose problems are hidden. Only my DR and I know what they are. So for the people who I have told, and that isn’t everyone, I am sure that they don’t take me too seriously. But that is ok. I have read that MS is the most misunderstood disease and I am sure that is correct.

I am just getting back to oil painting after many years of setting it aside because of doing other things. But I have found it so relaxing and rewarding for myself, even if no one sees any of my work. This MS Art Showcase is the perfect venue because finally someone else will view what I have completed.”
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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Barbara Hall and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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The Other Side of the Lens – Working with Neurology Now

What a blessing this past year has been working with MSAA. After having announced my multiple sclerosis (MS) publicly, I have become overwhelmed with ardent, sincere responses and appreciation, stories, and gratitude.

Through my role as an ambassador for MSAA, I had the wonderful honor of being recognized  in the publication, Neurology Now. Managing editor Mike Smolinsky and photographer Annie Levy requested a photo shoot and interview with an individual living with multiple sclerosis to feature in their publication, and I was chosen. It was a great honor to work with these two professionals.

Having my own portrait taken is, to say the least, a rare occasion for me. I knew Annie’s body of work, her stunning portraiture. Looking through her lens was not intimidating for me, but rather, it seemed no different than looking straight into her kind eyes. I was able to relax, feel comfortable, and be me. And of course, that is every photographer’s dream.

Finding out we lived so near to one another in Brooklyn, Mike and I were able to take some time to grab a coffee and meet in-person. For someone so busy to take the special time out of their day to get to know a subject made me realize that I was working with a rare and world-class group of people. After a full, enriching conversation, Mike and I had to part, knowing full well we could have gone on, and on, and on sharing ideas and stories until the sun went down.

Being recognized and working with the team at Neurology Now was a true joy, and an honor. Because of all the intricacies involved living with MS as a young female photographer, it feels liberating to speak openly to people who want to listen. Throughout the month my mailbox has claimed the most touching letters from Neurology Now readers all throughout the country. Getting to know these people and their stories, as well as feeling their gratitude and openness, has really been the true blessing. There is something about anonymity that can be a catalyst for conversation and sharing, straight away. Without judgment or fear, I have never known or have gotten to know others through such open lines of communication.

A very tender thanks to Neurology Now,  MSAA, and to all the readers out there who I can now call my friends.

Check out Anna’s portrait in Neurology Now!

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Parting Thoughts…

The following is a post from Amanda Bednar, MSAA’s Manager of Community Relations, who will be sadly leaving us after 9 years of being a part of the MSAA family. We will miss her!

For the past nine and half years I have enjoyed being a part of the staff at MSAA as well as the larger multiple sclerosis (MS) community. When I first started here, I came aboard wanting to learn more about multiple sclerosis but more importantly, combine my skills as a communications professional and my desire to make a difference into a career. Looking back, I can certainly say that my career at MSAA has been all of that and more. I have come to have a profound respect not only for the MS community but for my colleagues and the work that is done to make sure MSAA’s mission continues. I am honored to have worked with so many kind and generous individuals.

The one thing I will miss the most are the emails and testimonials that I have been able to read from you, our clients. Every time I read a guest post in this blog or meet an individual at a program or speak with a client about their Stories to Inspire column in The Motivator, I am often left awestruck at the resiliency and determination of the MS community.

While I am leaving my day-to-day duties at MSAA, I will not be leaving the MS community. I plan on transitioning into a volunteer role, where I hope to still be able to continue supporting MSAA’s mission of improving lives today!

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