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Art for the Journey

Healing through Creative Expression

Our fall 2020 art show looks a little different this time, as we follow recommended guidelines regarding gatherings in small spaces. We hope you are able to enjoy the more than 100 pieces of art that were submitted in this online gallery. You’ll also see that we’ve included several videos about the Art for the Journey organization as well as a few others that relate to populations of artists that are featured in the show.

Art for the Journey

Art for the Journey was founded by a small group of artists in the Richmond, Virginia area who discovered the power of art to transform their life experience and who simply wanted to share that with others. The sense of partnership and mutual support that defined their original group is now being shared with a growing community of volunteers who are spreading the impact of art throughout their communities.

Art for the Journey began as program for painting lessons, but instructors soon noticed that many people were not participating solely for instruction, but as a way of stepping back from a busy life or experiencing peace and perspective during a difficult time. Today the group strives to spark creativity in underprivileged communities and inspire individuals to experience the joy of self-expression. The mission of Art for the Journey is to overcome barriers to transform lives through art.

In the sections below, you’ll find the works of three distinct groups of artists: Women in Prison, Veterans, and Alzheimer’s patients. We invite you to scroll through each gallery and watch the accompanying videos.

Women in Prison

[David]: This is David Trinkle, Associate Dean for community and culture at the virginia tech carilion school of medicine. And we're doing another virtual visit with our current art show “Art for the Journey.” part of our show features women in prison and how art and creativity has helped them cope with their situation and life with us today is Jennifer Hollingsworth Austin. Tell us a little bit about your programs there and and your experience.

[Jennifer]: We have several enrichment programs that we do, two of which are art based. One is a beginning drawing class that I do for the general population and then the other is a weekly class that I do with the mental health pod, the guys that are in the mental health unit. We have good relationships with it with the inmates. We do the projects with them so we're not just you know, barging in and saying “hey you know here’s some clay, now bare your soul” and it is so we have some skin in the game as well so they see us, you know, trying different things that may work or may not work and in creating right along side of them. 

The inmates love it. The way I see it is part of my job is to help them battle boredom and frustration and possibly despair, and so by offering them a way to express themselves is very very helpful. With the general population I'm only allowed to work with six people at a time. And it’s not unusual when I do a sign up for me to get 50 or 60 people who want to be in the class and then I have to do a lottery so I do as many of those as I'm able to. And then with the mental health unit, everything I do is based on cognitive behavioral therapy - that's what they use - and it's a 12-week curriculum and so I spend a lot of time helping the guys with reflection and doing projects that hopefully let them access some insights on themselves, build confidence. Everybody seems to enjoy it and one of the things that I like most is how adventurous the art students are that even if they think “well, I can't draw circle” they quicky find out they can and no matter what they do, their their skills as an artist will improve.

Women in Prison Art Show

The first program delivered by Art for the Journey in 2014 was to the women who are incarcerated at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland County, Virginia.  In 2019 a special project where women were asked to both paint about and write about their experience through their incarceration was not only introspective, but conveys the depth of their individual experiences in such a way that the community can be educated and inspired by their works.


Even before all the students arrived, this studio stirs with excitement. Adult learning with childlike giddiness but when paint is poured and blank canvases go up, these artists get down to business. The assignment: a landscape of the James River.

Each brush stroke moves them closer to healing. These painters live with physical cognitive and emotional scars they are veterans at McGuire VA Medical Center. Volunteers with art for the journey conduct the class every month.

Cindy Paullin: We all come together we celebrate and we share this experience.

Executive director Cindy Paulin says creating provides a much-needed escape for these military men and women.

Cindy: Somehow it quiets the thoughts you have that you came in with and you enter into a place that's really pleasant.

Milton Wells served 10 years in the US Army. A liver transplant and stroke derailed his military career but not his attitude.

Milton: It gives me confidence that I can paint, and just self-confidence in myself.

This is Milton's first experience with Art for the Journey. It's already paying dividends.

Milton: [inaudible] things to do for your mind, that's the main part so I don't focus on that outcome but more [inaudible].

Even before the paint dries these budding artists observe a spot for the next class

Volunteer: We see a huge boost in self-esteem and it carries over after they leave this room

They may not be confused with da Vinci or Rembrandt but these veterans are proving we all have a masterpiece inside.

Milton: try again next time and hopefully I can do better this is a good time so I'm satisfied.

Alzheimer's Patients

I'm Dave Trinkle, the associate dean for community and culture at the Virginia Tech  Carilion School of Medicine and this another one in a series of virtual events describing the current art show up at the medical school and the different populations that were  targeted. And today we're going to talk about alzheimer's patients and how creativity can really go a long way into easing calming and creating a nice environment and relationship with these patients especially in the early stages of their memory loss. So with me today is Annette Clark. She is a family services director of the Alzheimer's Association of central and western Virginia chapter. And we also have Taylor Lee, who is a care consultant lead with the early stage program. We'll start a little bit with just a  general description of what is the Alzheimer's Association here in Roanoke and what do they do and who they serve.

[Annette]: Well, I thank you so much for having us join you today. The Alzheimer's Association is actually nationwide so regardless of where the individual is living, there is a me in their community, so I would encourage everyone to visit our website where caregivers or individuals that want to learn more about the disease - or maybe  they're living with the disease - can go on and find up-to-date information about the latest research, they can find great educational programs that are that are available virtually right now, they can learn about the 10 signs from  there, or understanding alzheimer's and dementia, communication, behaviors, all of those programs are right there for individuals to view from the safety of their own home. 

Another thing that the Alzheimer's Association is very well known for is our 24/7 365 day out of the year helpline. And what that looks like Dave is, you know, a caregiver can call us at three o'clock in the morning on a holiday and they're going to get a master's level clinician that can problem solve with them, talk about what's going on within their own situation, give them things to put in their toolkit to help them manage the situation, and then on the flip side, sometimes it's just a caregiver who needs that listening ear, who needs someone to acknowledge this is the worst day of their life, and this is not what they signed up for.

[Taylor Lee]: My role at the Alzheimer's Association is to work directly with caregivers, persons living with dementia, and then also to provide education to the public, and the way that I do that specifically with persons living with dementia is that I work very closely with them to provide them with support groups, so it gives both caregiver and persons living with dementia a chance to kind of connect with their peers or others that are going through the same situation as them and then it also provides a level of friendship that allows them to connect even outside of support groups. We also try to work to find creative  opportunities for them to kind of socialize, build some of that stimulization, so that they can maintain their skill but also walk away with a meaningful activity.

We have several different programs that are kind of centered around art. Just in the Richmond area, we have partnered with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where we have had several tours where we have trained the docents there and we have taken small tours with persons living with dementia and their care partners to view some of the art and allow them to share their experience or what they see, and again it allows them to communicate  with not without having to deal with a lack of confidence and having the right or wrong answer. So that's always great, and then those tours usually end with a way that they can socialize afterwards. We've also partnered with the Visual Arts Center in Richmond and  that allows them to see another exhibit of art and then afterwards they can participate in art making that kind of coincides with the exhibit that they were able to see and then lastly that ends with some more socialization. And then we also have other programs  like Art in the Making, where it allows us to kind of put together some formal education program but then it allows them to express themselves through a way of art making. Those are three of just a few of the things that we do but we have definitely seen that that is a way to connect with them and then also a way for them to connect with us.

Learn more about Art for the Journey

[Dave Trinkle]: Hey, this is Dr. Dave Trinkle, I'm the associate dean for community and culture at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and we are doing these videos - virtual opportunities - to get to know our current art show that's up in the hallways at the VTC School of Medicine and we're really lucky to have three panelists with us. First up is Cindy Paulin. She's executive director for Art for the Journey.  

[Cindy Paullin]: Art for the Journey is a non-profit organization whose mission is to overcome barriers and transform lives through creating art and we have a story where a group of artists taking in an art class from a retired mental health professional started to witness in the class that we too were experiencing a sense of well-being, a sense of retreat, and a sense of solace,  and because of that discovery back in 2014, we started to think about how this could be shared perhaps with another population.   

We serve many different populations. We work with incarcerated women, people with dementia and Alzheimer's, veterans that are living with PTSD. We have three different school programs where we go into the underserved communities and we provide educational and robust art instruction as well as try to deliver well-being and solace for children. We work with children with juvenile diabetes and we work with third year medical students. 

Because the stress level of the students in their third year of medical school can reach such a proportion that a retreat or a sense of peace and solace is needed even for people who are brilliant and capable and top of the class. 

It's really been a success. They they receive it well and we become connected even after the class and they become volunteers for art for the journey.

[Dave Trinkle]: Also we have Mark Hierholzer who is founder and president for art for the journey as well.

[Mark Hierholzer]: Art making all by itself provides a certain amount of solace and perspective. Almost every artist that I know will tell me that their art is what keeps them happy or sane or stable or at peace in their lives and has nothing to do with relationships necessarily it's just the experience of art making. And then what we do is offer the experience of art making and paired with a sense of community which we try to develop with our teams of volunteers when we go into these various settings.

We really try to create an environment of support and celebration and friendship and engagement so that you're combining the experience of art making with these relationships. The power of these programs to touch people is just it's just amazing. 

  • We see it with the women in prison, who really hold on to these art classes as a almost a lifeline. 
  • We see it with underserved and at-risk children who are living in poverty and difficult circumstances in public housing communities.
  • We see it with veterans who feel so isolated emotionally as I'm sure you can appreciate with the service related disabilities and PTSD and suddenly, you know, there's a connection that they're beginning to experience. 
  • And of course in OMA it's the same way. You know, I've sat with many elders for this program and the friendships that develop and the ways that people can touch each other around the experience of art making. You know, the volunteer facilitator and the elder sitting there together. 

Whatever it is about putting color on on a on a piece of paper together seems to uh have its own you know its own energy. You know, we are inspired as well. When we connect with people in a way that really makes a difference in their lives it makes a difference in my life.

OMA: Opening Minds through Art

The Scripps Gerontology “Opening Minds through Art” (OMA) program was designed by Dr. Elizabeth Lokon at Miami University, OHIO and is an intergenerational person-centered abstract Art program which has been awarded a “Best Practice” and other international awards. OMA is grounded in person-centered ethics and founded on the fact that people with dementia are capable of expressing themselves creatively. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that creative expression improves their physical and psychological well-being. The mission of OMA is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art.

Art for the Journey partners with Dr. Lokon in providing a certification practicum to certify OMA facilitators across the USA

[Dave Trinkle]: Next up is Dr. [Elizabeth] "Like" Lokon. She's founder and director of Opening Minds through Art or OMA. She founded OMA in 2007.

[Elizabeth Lokon]: So OMA is an intergenerational art program for people with dementia and we put students, usually college students, one-on-one in supporting the elders who have dementia in creating art. So the mission of the program  is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers. So it's really that friendship that is the foundation and the creativity the art making grows out of that friendship. 

I found that art can connect us, because language and communication and the standard way of talking to each other often end up in dead ends, but when we do something together, make art together, it's, it's, we can connect. Students then can learn how to be empathetic to people outside of their normal circle of friends and family. 

In OMA they partner one-on-one with the same person week after week after week so they  become friends they come to understand how to communicate, they developed their ability to empathize with the other and it does show an increase in positive attitudes towards older adults.

Additional art work submitted for show

Art for the Journey provides a “Paint-In retreat as a part of a “Physicians Self-Care” elective course at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.  These art works are created by participants and medical professionals.

tryptic with three hearts, description below
Three Hearts by Saloni Patolia, M4, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

I created this set of three paintings to depict how food, nature, and social strife can adversely affect public health.

The first painting shows various vegetables contained within the outline of a human heart. This is meant to depict food insecurity, an issue that affects nearly 11% of American households. Food insecurity is defined as lack of access to quality foods and it can have serious consequences such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can also cause familial stress and increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

The second painting shows a tranquil landscape soon to be overcome by storm clouds looming ahead. This is meant to depict climate change, a man-made issue that has already had serious public health consequences. Climate change has led to an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular disease, premature deaths from weather events, and decreased access to food and water.

The third painting depicts the names of black victims of police brutality. According to one statistic, 100,000 were sent to the emergency room as a result of police violence in 2013. Police brutality not only has physical consequences but mental as well, with black and Hispanic people more likely to have PTSD as a result of targeted stop-and-frisk programs.

These three paintings are not meant to be viewed separately just as these issues are not separate but intertwined. Black individuals and people of color are more likely to be affected by food insecurity and are more likely to face the negative consequences of climate change. As health care providers it's up to us to recognize these issues as public health concerns and to involve ourselves in these issues by learning about them so that we can identify and address how our patients may be affected. Ultimately, it is up to use our privilege to break the cycle of these intertwined issues. 

These are the names of victims of police brutality that were unable to be contained within the painting: Anthony Ashford; Alonzo Smith; Tyree Crawford; India Kager; La' Vante Biggs; Michael Lee Marshall; Jamar Clark; Richard Perkins; Nathaniel Harris Pickett; Benni Lee Tignor; Miguel Espinal; Michael Noel; Kevin Matthews; Bettie Jones; Quintonio Legrier; Keith Childress Jr.; Janet Wilson; Randy Nelson; Antronie Scott; Wendell Celestine; David Joseph; Calin Roquemore; Dyzhawn Perkins; Christopher Davis; Marco Loud; Peter Gaines; Torrey Robinson; Darius Robinson; Kevin Hicks; Mary Truxillo; Demarcus Semer; Willie Tillman; Terril Thomas; Sylville Smith; Alton Sterling; Philando Castile; Terence Crutcher; Paul O'Neal; Alteria Woods; Jordan Edwards; Aaron Bailey; Ronell Foster; Stephon Clark; Antwon Rose Ill; Botham Jean; Pamela Turner; Dominique Turner; Atatiana Jefferson; Christopher Whitfield; Christopher McCorvey; Eric Reason; Michael Lorenzo Dean; Breonna Taylor; George Floyd 

a blue background with a baby in the center with three hands and instruments coming in from various sides
The Next Generation - Alexander Allen, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

My inspiration for this painting came to me as a third year medical student while on my OB/GYN rotation. I was able to observe and assist in my first cesarean section (also known as a C-section), a procedure where a child is delivered by cutting through the wall of the abdomen and uterus. This was a particularly meaningful experience for me because I was delivered by this method due to complications with vaginal delivery. This innovative medical procedure allowed me to live, and here I was 26 years later helping provide life to someone else in the same way. To emphasize this point, I painted the arms of the physicians and assistants each emerging from an individual C-section cavity. Additionally, I added a surgical glove to the right hand of the newly delivered baby, highlighting that child's potential to one day become a provider and help others in the same way. I therefore thought it was appropriate to title this painting, 'The Next Generation.'

a mother and daughter and a medical professional, distorted as if ripped apart by a storm
COVID Storm - Dr. Lourdes Page