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Augustana Observer

Figge exhibit displays cancer survivor art


The Figge Art Museum will display cancer survivor art this summer as part of a project by the the Living Proof Exhibit, an organization that provides art therapy to cancer patients in the Quad Cities.
Cancer survivors within a 150-mile radius of the Quad Cities are invited to submit art for the exhibit, which will be on display August 16 through October 26.
Co-founder of the Living Proof Exhibit Pamela Crouch said the Figge display will not only provide cancer survivors with an outlet to creatively express themselves, but will also give hope to those still suffering.
“By having displays of your work, your artwork, you are living proof to someone who is just newly diagnosed, someone who is just now undergoing cancer treatments,” Crouch said. “That, yes, look at this. You’re not only surviving. You are thriving.”
This will be the first Living Proof Exhibit display at the Figge, but the nonprofit organization has done similar shows in the past.  Crouch said the idea of presenting cancer survivor art came from her own personal experience.
Crouch was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. A once prolific actress, artist and writer, she was forced to take a hiatus from her work.
“I started feeling very sorry for myself,” Crouch said. “I was bald. I was sick… I couldn’t write. I couldn’t be in a show. And then I remembered I had two hands, and I could still see. I was supposed to be a creative.”
Upon the realization, Crouch began painting birdhouses pink as a gift to other cancer survivors. As she began pursuing her love of art again, her outlook on life changed.
“Most importantly, I realized you can’t feel bad for yourself when you’re doing something for someone else,” Crouch said.
At her cancer support group, Crouch met photographer and cancer survivor Mary Ellen Cunningham. Together, they decided to put on an art show exclusively featuring work by cancer survivors.
“There’s some fabulous organizations out there who are searching for the cure for cancer and provide ongoing support during your cancer journey,” Crouch said. “But they don’t celebrate the survivorship, and we really wanted to celebrate survivors. We thought a great way to do that is to celebrate the creative spirit of the survivor.”
Their first art show was held in 2010 at Bucktown Center for Arts in Davenport. Local hospitals and organizations began supporting their cause, allowing Crouch and Cunningham to provide art therapy classes within a year.
Today, the Living Proof Exhibit offers a variety of art therapy classes for cancer survivors, including a four-day series of classes starting April 10.
The classes will teach cancer survivors how to turn old pieces of clothing into paper for journaling.
Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, Quad City Arts Visual Arts Director, conceptualized the idea after hearing about a similar project done by soldiers.
“We all have a piece of clothing that we don’t like or reminds us of a bad time in our lives,” Wohlford-Metallo said. “Now, you can tear it up. This is about physically doing something. You need to do something physical to recover.”
Crouch said that cancer survivors create art from a different perspective than anyone else. She hopes more cancer survivors, patients and family members will join them in celebrating their creative spirit.
“Please join us for this opportunity and let’s celebrate,” Crouch said. “Let’s celebrate life. Let’s celebrate hope. Let’s celebrate the joys of being alive.”
Information on classes and submitting artwork is available at or (309) 781-6227.

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Figge exhibit displays cancer survivor art