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Art helps patients deal with a serious illness

Tom Jackson • Oct 17, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Cancer survivor Arlene Cizkovsky wasn’t interested at first when she was invited to attend art therapy sessions.


She had never thought of herself as an artist, and the bone and breast cancer she was battling at the time seemed like a more immediate concern.

“I thought, art, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about,” Cizkovsky said.

But her mixed-media piece, “Unexpected,” showing a face disintegrating into fragments, is one of the highlights of the new “Transformations” art exhibit that’s been set up in the lobby of the Sandusky Cultural Center

Cizkovsky, 67, a Sandusky resident, was persuaded to give art a try. Her work at the exhibit was crafted from a radiation mask, although the powerful effect created by the shards of the object’s face was a happy accident.

“It started cracking. I tried to fix it,” she said.

Dawn Freeman, an art therapist for the Cleveland Clinic North Coast Cancer Campus in Margaretta Township, came up with the idea for the exhibit and put it together with other art therapists. It’s a traveling exhibit that began at a gallery in Beachwood and will be shown later at Lorain County Community College.

Art helps patients deal with a serious illness, Freeman said.

“Even the word cancer is scary for these people,” she said. “They get the diagnosis and it’s intimidating.”    The exhibit consists of works by caregivers, patients and staff. All of them took medical equipment such as radiation masks or IV bags as their medium.

“What we’re trying to do is give the control back to the patients, the caregivers,” she said.

Want to go?

• WHAT: “Transformations,” art exhibit of works produced by cancer patients.

• WHERE: Sandusky Cultural Center, 2130 Hayes Ave. (behind Sandusky High School)

• WHEN: 1-4 p.m. Sunday through Friday, now through Nov. 24. Reception is Sunday.

The artworks in the new exhibit don’t have names attached to them. Some of the patients were shy about having their names used, Freeman said.

Julie Baumbick, of Sandusky, who is showing a piece called “New Face,” survived a bout of lung cancer.

“Stage four, six months to live,” she said. “Look at me now.”

Baumbick had quit smoking 10 years before she became sick.

She told the doctor, “I guess I didn’t stop soon enough.” He replied, “Anytime you quit is soon enough.”

Baumbick took up painting as a result of her art therapy efforts and has sold many of the colorful, impressionist-style pictures.

“This one went to Loma Linda, Calif.,” she said, showing off photos of her work.

Patricia Frisch, 44, a Perkins Township housewife with three children and three grandchildren, is showing “My Window,” which has blocks of color evoking the stained glass windows she sees when she goes to Mass.

Another piece, “Stop and Smell,” cheerfully shows leaves, flowers and butterfly emerging from an IV bag.

Frisch, who had a blood disorder and is dealing with benign tumors, said she had to deal with sadness and anger.

The first day she was treated, “I cried from the time I walked into the building until the time I walked back into the car,” she said.

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