November 2, 2009

Painting a new path at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific



Oshino Okuda, 97, paints some horses with help from Reuben Young. (Photo" Craig T. Kojima)


Ninety-seven-year-old Oshino Okuda regularly attends painting classes at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific. Although her late husband was an artist, she was never allowed to paint. Her responsibilities included domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children.
"Now it's my turn," she said. "He wouldn't teach me, but I watched him ... and learned by watching. It's good fun." Okuda claims that one of the best parts of the painting program is meeting new people and making friends. After all, she attributes her long life to "being nice to people and smiling all the time." A fellow painter, Buster Medeiros, attends class every other week with his longtime partner Bev Robello. He began painting using his mouth after a spinal cord injury, and Robello is his faithful assistant. "She is there from the first stroke to the last stroke," he said.

"Art has changed the way I look at things in the world. That change is profound and forever," said Medeiros. Medeiros was completing a painting that will be sold at the hospital's fundraiser, "Art from the Heart," that takes place Wednesday evening in the hospital lobby. More than 500 works of art from patients, former patients and well-established community artists will be displayed and available for purchase. Artwork will range in price from $20 to $2,500. Ikebana arrangements, donated by Ohara School of Ikebana, will also be sold.

The annual fundraiser helps to support the Louis Vuitton Creative Arts Program, which allows patients to find emotional and physical healing through a creative outlet. "We see how the blank canvas becomes a metaphor for their recovery process," said Tara Sullivan, the hospital's creative-arts program coordinator. "The intimidation of the unknown can be overwhelming, but one stroke at a time, they begin to paint a new path in life." (via Nancy Arcayna in the The Honolulu Star Bulletin)


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