A bird in flight, a field of flowers, a dog surrounded by butterflies, a portrait of a toddler — they’re all part of the artwork by the multiple sclerosis (MS) community done for a Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) showcasing program, now marking its 10th year.
Through its MSAA Art Showcases initiative, which started in 2009, the organization gives artists with MS the opportunity to share their work. Each fall, they are invited to submit paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic, or pastel. Drawings in pencil or ink are also welcome.
During MS Awareness Month each March, the works are featured on the MSAA website, accompanied by the artists’ stories. This year, 151 works were submitted by 46 artists, and are for viewing on its 2019 Four Seasons Art Showcase.
Natalie Shumylo of West Allis, Wisconsin, is this year’s “artist of the month,” Her entry, titled “Running Late,” shows two children — likely a girl and a boy — hurrying along a path in a heavy rain, one pulling the other forward. Both hold colorful umbrellas and are viewed from the back.
Shumylo, who as diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS at age 17, said in her biography: “I tend to introduce myself as an artist first because I want the world to see that first. … MS is just a small facet of my being.”
Among art exhibited in 2018 was work by Karen Bloom. In her accompanying narrative, the Kendallville, Indiana, resident wrote: “When I’m painting, I plain and simple do not hurt. I get lost in creating when I can visualize. Art is my escape. God may have taken my legs and career, but He gave me the time to paint. When one door closes, another opens.”
The MS Ability Art Showcase and the Four Seasons showcase initiative provides a creative outlet for MS patients, regardless of skill level. It’s also meant to motivate artists who, post-diagnosis, struggle with how this disease does or might affect their talents.
MS poses many challenges, but also can be turned to an advantage. That’s the case with David Desjardins, an artist and showcase participant since 2013.
”I find that due to the disease, I am slower and more deliberate than I used to be,” Desjardins said in a MSAA news release. “Before, I tended to rush through a painting, perhaps sacrificing details with which I should have taken more time. Now that I’m slower with the execution, I find my style has definitely improved.”
Exhibits like these run by the MSAA also serve to clearly demonstrate how people with MS, while physically affected by their disease, can and do contribute in meaningful ways to society, Desjardins added. “Regularly contributing to the MSAA Art Showcase is my way of doing that.”
More information on the MSAA’s 2019 Art Showcases submissions is available using this link.