It's been written that "Art is a shadow of what a person is thinking, a small glimpse of what they hold inside. Little secrets, regrets, joys, every line has its own meaning." Art therapy is based on the idea that the act of either reflecting or creating can be healing. Nancy Naeve Brown met a breast cancer survivor who was helped by a local artist commissioned by the Avera Cancer Institute.
When Donna Burns from Brookings first met famed South Dakota Artist Mary Groth 4 years ago, she ways it was like serendipity. Donna was battling breast cancer at the time and had just learned she needed another surgery. Donna's son works in the same building (Fresh Produce) as Mary and brought her to Mary's Sioux Falls studio.
Donna says, "Seeing her art work was wonderful. Then all of a sudden on a short wall was a picture, a sketch with something over the top of it to protect it, almost like a curtain over it. She had flowers in her hand and an umbrella protecting her from the rain. Immediately I started crying. I can't tell you what happened except for me the picture spoke to me."
This was the first time Donna had seen the completed portrait that evolved from the sketch. It is hanging over the mantle in the Avera Gynecologic Oncology clinic's waiting room. It is part of a series Mary Groth calls "Prairie Angelica: Flying High I". It's about the earthly angels in our lives we come to lean on in difficult times. Mary is one of the 15 commissioned artists for the new Avera Cancer Institute.
Mary Groth says, "I wanted to speak to women and use images to evoke the emotions of being strong, to be hopeful, to still find joy, to be fearless. Things like that."
Donna says, "When you have cancer it makes you take stock in the fact that life isn't forever. The flowers to me represent the blessing we have. The rain is the hurdles we face when our health is in jeopardy. The umbrella to me is family, friends and the spiritual beings we draw strength from to protect us from the rain."
Mary says, "When I get to hear the story from someone it makes me feel like I have a calling that has its little place in this world. Yeah, it's great."
Aristotle wrote, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." For Donna her journey with cancer would have been entirely different, void without the healing power of art and Mary.
Throughout the Prairie Center you will find 60 pieces of commissioned art work.