March 2017 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

All-New Artists for MSAA’s 2017-2018 Art Showcase!

As part of MS Awareness Month, MSAA is very proud to present our 2017-2018 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:

Art Showcase Logo - 2017 Showcase 2017 Four Seasons Art Showcase Logo

As in the past, we will highlight one Artist of the Month throughout this year and share their artwork and their story.

Presenting MSAA’s Artist of the Month for March!

MSAA is very excited to present the first Artist of the Month for our 2017 Art Showcase:

March Artist of the Month:
Shana Stern – Los Angeles, CA
Shiver and Shake
Shana Stern - Shiver and Shake

About the Artist:
“I was a dancer, a writer, a mum, then a person with MS. The unrelenting symptoms and medications stripped everything which made me ‘me’. I was lost.

Then, I discovered painting. Unable to hold a paintbrush, I created my own unique method using my fingers and knuckles.

Those parts of me which felt lost thrive again. I don’t dance on my toes but with my hands. I don’t need words for stories just paints. My art helped me find joy, purpose and the strength and confidence to believe in myself again. I may have MS but MS does not have me.”
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Stories to Inspire

Since 2013, Shana Stern has actively participated in MSAA’s Art Showcase campaign, where people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) submit images of their talented artwork for display on our website gallery, promotional materials, and social media platforms. Shana’s bold and vibrant paintings reflect not just her artistry, but also her willingness to rise above the ongoing challenges of multiple sclerosis. Diagnosed with MS in 1999, Shana battles a variety of symptoms including extreme fatigue, pain, drop foot, and visual difficulties. In addition, Shana also has a loss of feeling in her right arm and fingers, which limits her ability to hold or grasp any small object – including a paint brush.

Frustrated by constantly dropping the brush and her inability to control the path of the paint, Shana was forced to once again work around the impact of MS and find a solution. While sitting on the floor, Shana discovered that she could balance the canvas on her knees and paint with her fingers and knuckles. By adapting to this new and unique style, Shana has regained control of her artistic abilities and found an even deeper connection to her love of painting. “Getting lost in the music I paint to and helping the colors dance across the canvas with my fingers has become my mental, spiritual, and emotional therapy,” said Shana. “We may get knocked down a bit and have to work a little harder, but we are capable of great things such as bringing beauty and art into the world! Yes, I have MS, but I am an artist.”

Not surprisingly, Shana’s son Walker Reynolds, 12, also shares a love for art and the ability to reach beyond the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Inspired by his mother’s spirit and determination, Walker also wanted to get involved with MSAA and help make a difference. While on the MSAA website, Walker discovered our Swim for MS fundraising campaign, where volunteers can create their own swim activity, set a challenge goal, and collect pledges from family and friends to help support the organization’s programs and services.

As a self-described “fish,” Walker’s love of swimming and the ability to raise funds while having fun in the pool made for a perfect match. Despite being 11 years old at the time and having no prior fundraising experience, Walker dove right in and registered for Swim for MS. Starting in June 2016, Walker dedicated his summer to swimming one minute for each dollar donated, with the ambitious goal of raising $1,600. On his fundraising page, Walker stated: “My goal is to raise $1,600, which is $100 for each year my mom has struggled with MS. Daily she battles fatigue, numbness, pain and vision loss (which stinks when I need homework help!). Because her symptoms are ‘invisible’ I want to educate others and also inspire others like she inspires me!”

With Shana and Walker’s permission, MSAA began promoting their remarkable story to the local media and within the MSAA community. By summer’s end, with the support of their family, friends, and other contributors, Walker not only reached, but exceeded his goal and raised more than $1,800 to help support the MS community. As one can imagine, MSAA is extremely proud to recognize the amazing love and inspiration of Shana Stern and Walker Reynolds by honoring them at this year’s Improving Lives Benefit.

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February 2017 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2016-17 Art Showcase – celebrating the work of artists affected by multiple sclerosis (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.

Patricia Heller – Sturgeon Bay, WI
Poppies Reaching for the Sun
Patricia Heller - Poppies Reaching for the Sun

About the Artist:
“Diagnosed ten years ago, my life dramatically changed.

As the years have gone on, I have become better at both watercoloring and handling MS. With painting, I have learned to watch the movement of the water and the paint and capture it to create the images I intend. With MS symptoms, I have learned to listen to what my body is telling me and then use everything I have learned (meditation, relaxation, exercise, stretching, drugs, and best of all, WATERCOLOR PAINTING) to manage MS.””
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The Benefits of Creating Artwork… It’s More than Just a Pretty Picture!

Each month, we honor an artist from our Art Showcase in our Artist of the Month series.  But have you taken a moment to look through the Art Showcase to see what you’ll find? In addition to a wide variety of beautiful pieces of art, you’ll find personal stories written by the artists. These stories add a whole new dimension to the artwork, allowing you to read about the artist and learn what inspires him or her to create.

In looking through these stories, you’ll find one common theme: In addition to creating a piece of art, the act of doing the art is extremely therapeutic – and this is true whether drawing or painting, as well as crafting, knitting, or throwing a clay pot on a pottery wheel. It often changes one’s outlook and gives individuals a new purpose in life.

These positive effects are exciting to hear and are certainly not limited to MSAA’s Art Showcase! The entire field of art therapy is based on the benefits derived from the creative process and the resulting artwork, and these advantages may be experienced by children, adults of any age, healthy individuals, and individuals with physical, emotional, or psychological challenges.

Numerous studies have been conducted with healthy individuals as well as those with various conditions to examine the positive effects of creating artwork. One small study found that the women with MS who participated in a creative art program experienced significant increases in self-esteem, social support, and self-efficacy to function with MS (self-efficacy is the ability we believe we have to meet challenges and achieve goals). The study also saw a strong effect on hope. The authors concluded that creative art has the potential to enhance the lives of those living with MS.

Another small study conducted in Ireland found that the group of adults with MS who participated in creative classes experienced deep immersion in their artwork, offering respite from worry about their illness. The art-making processes and artwork created increased emotional wellbeing and promoted self-worth, while attending the classes provided an opportunity for social camaraderie and learning. Artwork even helped to support their identity and to accommodate functional losses associated with MS. Participants expressed the feeling that art was “opening new doors” for them.

The American Art Therapy Association at arttherapy.org explains that art therapy is a mental health profession in which art therapists use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to help their clients to explore their feelings and reconcile emotional conflicts. Among other benefits, they note that art therapy can help people to foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Anyone interested in learning about art therapy or locating an art therapist in his or her area may visit this website for more information.

It’s important to note that you do not need to work with an art therapist to enjoy the rewards of creating artwork, nor do you need to be an artist or believe you have any “talent” as an artist. While an art therapist may be very helpful to someone who is experiencing emotional or psychological issues, including depression or anxiety… or to someone recovering from an illness or coping with a medical condition… anyone is free to explore his or her creative side… and discover the positive changes associated with creating his or her own works of art!

Another informative resource on the value of art is the Be Brain Fit website. This site was created by two health professionals and cites many published works relating to the benefits derived through art and the creative process. In this section of their website, they explain that creating art is a very effective way to stimulate the brain and that anyone can do it. To follow are a few points from Be Brain Fit, all supporting the positive effects of artwork.

Art relieves stress by enabling you to become totally immersed and providing a distraction for your mind. As you concentrate on details and pay more attention to your environment, it acts like a form of meditation. Many of the new coloring books being marketed to adults were designed with the idea of reducing stress, and have even helped veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Art uses both sides of your brain, encourages creative thinking, and enhances problem-solving skills. Art is thought to serve as a type of brain exercise and stimulates communication between various parts of the brain, creating new connections between brain cells. It also boosts self-esteem, provides a sense of accomplishment, and can help children to become better students. Art has even been shown to enhance cognitive abilities and memory for people with serious brain disorders, and has been shown to improve memory in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Now that you know some of the exciting benefits that art has to offer, this might be a great time to give art a try! You can start with a pencil and paper, a coloring book and pens, a craft kit from the store, paints and brushes, or a scrapbook and glue… whatever you might find to be interesting and fun. You can even enroll in a local art class. The results will surprise you! And who knows? Maybe the next MSAA Art Showcase will feature one of your works!

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Wishing You a Safe and Joyous Holiday Season

Happy Holidays 2015

There is still time to share holiday greetings and raise awareness about MSAA! This season, our festive cards include artwork by artists living with multiple sclerosis. Please visit support.mymsaa.org/holidaycards to send a holiday eCard to everyone on your list!

PLEASE NOTE:  MSAA’s offices will be closed Thursday, December 24th, through Sunday, December 27th. 

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August 2015 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2015 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.

August Artist of the Month:
Jeffrey Waldron – Granby, MA

 Jeffrey Waldron - Male Hummingbird and Flower

About the Artist:
“My name is Jeffrey Waldron, I’m 53 years old, and I was diagnosed with MS in 2001 – although there were symptoms some years before that. I used to be a teacher (math & computers) and a scientist. Before MS, those were the best ways for me to contribute and make a difference. With the MS, however, I notice that my perceptive strengths have shifted from the quantitative to the qualitative. Today I find that I can share insights of value more effectively through art and visual recreations of the beauty I see in the world.”
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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Jeffrey Waldron and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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June 2015 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2015 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.

June Artist of the Month:
Paula Breiner – Tamaqua, PA

 Paula Breiner - Sunny Disposition

About the Artist:
“I am an MS Survivor. No, I am not cured; it means I live day to day with this disease. I recently took a painting class to help strengthen my hand, to better my thinking and concentration, and because I haven’t drawn or painted since high school back in the 80’s.

I was diagnosed in 2006 with MS. Over the years I have developed more symptoms, and last year I was put on Rebif. I have a very loving and supportive husband whom I will celebrate our 30th anniversary with this November. We have two beautiful daughters and four amazing grandkids.”
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Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Paula Breiner and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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December 2014 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

A special seasonal December Artist of the Month:
David Desjardins – Union, ME

 David Desjardins - Christmas Morning

About the Artist:

“I consider myself to be a very positive and optimistic person, but it was difficult maintaining that attitude when I first learned of my diagnosis, even for me! I’ve always loved to paint, but there constantly seemed to be a situation or reason that demanded my immediate attention first. Now, however, I choose to do something creative with my time rather than giving in entirely to my illness, sitting in a corner mourning my losses.

I am so honored to participate in my second Art Showcase, and I am humbled to be in the company of so many talented artists. I used to paint only for my own enjoyment, but now when I hear how others enjoy my work it really makes my day!”

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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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