Residents in the Canberra region who live with Parkinson’s have been fortunate to have access to a therapeutic program of art in the Painting With Parkinson’s group, which has shown significant benefits to those who participate. These benefits include relief of physical symptoms and social and psychological support.
This successful program enters its 20th year, which in itself empahsises the success of its methodology. Artist Nancy Tingey initially developed the program in 1994 after her husband Bob Tingey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 46. Nancy’s disciplined approach to art, deep understanding of Parkinson’s and dedication to research has kept the program firmly on track as a therapeutic-based program. Awarded the Churchill Fellowship in 1995, Nancy visited and drew on other art-based therapy programs in Italy, Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, Canada and USA to develop her unique methodology.
At the heart of the program is the observation that creativity remains unaffected and in fact, is often enhanced in those with Parkinson’s. There is no pressure to create representative art (no copying from still life, for example) and while the process of making a series of marks becomes the dominant factor of the sessions, the resulting artwork is spectacularly spontaneous and highly expressive. Difficulties such as getting started are overcome by using proven cues and prompts, and materials are chosen with care to aid each artist. Many participants in the group are expressing themselves through art for the first time, as there is no requirement to be an artist to join the program.
Sessions are held in the National Botanic Gardens, are conducted by trained facilitators and are supported by a strong group of volunteers. The program currently collaborates with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the School of Music Poets; so many sessions include a live musician or poet, which enhances the creation of artworks and fosters a strong sense of wellbeing.
Painting with Parkinsons holds annual exhibitions and has a website to showcase the work of the artists. Please visit www.paintingwithparkinsons.org.au to read more about the program and to view the Canberra artists’ work.