The Art Studio, housed within a rehabilitation hospital in Cleveland, Ohio is the oldest expressive arts therapy program of its kind, and was the brainchild of Mickie McGraw, and Dr George Streeter. Mickie, like Susan, was also a polio survivor and a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Dr. Streeter, a psychiatrist. Together, they envisioned a place where patients could come and create art and heal, inside and out. Art was the medium, but the environment of the Art Studio served as an oasis for many patients looking to escape the day to day challenges of a life altering injury or illness and sometimes grueling rehabilitation process. It was a unique concept in its day, and remains a model program throughout the country and abroad.
I was barely a teenager in the late 1960's, and my recollection of that first and subsequent visits to the Art Studio is of a dizzying and seductive array of colorful people and artwork. Patients, some paraplegic, quadriplegic and aphasic, all gathered in the Art Studio alongside volunteers, friends, disabled and able bodied, all drawn to this environment created by Mickie McGraw, who would be the vortex of this sort of activity for years to come.
The history of the Art Studio, and the far reaching vision of its founder, Micke McGraw has been chronicled in a video entitled: "Yes You Can" Adapting a paint brush or other utensil so that a quadriplegic person may create the artwork is one facet of the art therapists work, but much broader than this is the ability to guide patients/persons, to express and affirm a self which is much greater than any limitations of our physical bodies.
Mickie is asked in the film if she views her self as disabled. Webster's dictionary defines disability as: "to make unable to perform by or as of illness, injury or malfunction." Hardly an apt definition for a person who has speant a lifetime creating, visioning, leading, and inspiring others.
Art, like music, can be a wonderful creative outlet for any one, including persons living with a medical diagnosis of Parkinson's or other neurogenic problem, to transcend the physical limitations of the disease and re-define oneself through creative expression.
For more information about the Art Therapy Studio or to order the DVD:
"Yes You Can! Art Centered Therapy for People with Disabilities, visit: