The healing arts: Cancer Center painting exhibit focuses on work by patients

Artist Joan Price's work will be on display along with pieces by other cancer patients during the seventh annual Art Heals exhibit at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. The exhibit opens Thursday. MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS
Artist Joan Price’s work will be on display along with pieces by other cancer patients during the seventh annual Art Heals exhibit at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. The exhibit opens Thursday.
MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS

An exhibit of painting by cancer patients, some who have started creating art for the first time, will open Thursday at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.

The seventh annual Art Heals is co-sponsored by Sansum Clinic and is the end result of classes hosted by Rick Stich, who has been teaching at the center for 18 years.

Lisa Winebrenner, oncology health promotion coordinator at the center, said the class is not so much about learning art skills as it is about providing patients, many of whom are going through heavy chemotherapy, a place where they don’t think about cancer.

“These are people who are looking for some kind way to work through their cancer diagnosis,” says Ms. Winebrenner. “And Rick provides this two-hour-a-week opportunity to learn some skills. There’s great camaraderie, he has great talent, and it’s an incredible program. … He brings out the best in these people.”

The work will be hung in the halls of the Cancer Center and over the year serves as a revolving exhibit of work, serving as an inspiration to others.

One such artist is Joan Price, 59, whose ovarian cancer returned in August after being in remission for more than 10 years.

She has finished her chemo and is in remission again with a new kind of treatment she takes every three weeks.

Ms. Price has done art on and off throughout her life and was happy to take Mr. Stich’s class.

“It’s a great place for everyone,” she said. “It was really healing for me.”

She wanted to take the class 10 years ago but was too busy as a working executive for the Montecito YMCA. “This time I said, ‘I’m going to work on getting healthy,’ ” Ms. Price said.

The art classes, she said, gave her a place to go where her “head didn’t spin.”

“When going through cancer there’s so many things to worry about,” Ms. Price said. “But when you’re there, everybody else in the class is going through it. You don’t have to talk about it. Some days are good and some days are bad. You just have to show up.”

As executive director of the YMCA, Ms. Price was instrumental in starting the LiveSTRONG program, a series of health and wellness classes for cancer survivors.

She knows the physical side of treating cancer, but the art classes at the Cancer Center focus on the mental side.

Ms. Price paints figures and landscapes and some will be featured in the show. The last time she exhibited in the show, it was a self-portrait called “Embracing Baldness.”

The exhibit is a chance to mingle and take in the art, meet some of the artists, and learn more about the Cancer Center.

There are plenty of misconceptions to deal with.

“They’ll say, ‘So you’re in remission, so you’re done right?’ ” Ms Price said. “No! You’re never done. This is just the new reality.” Ms Price said.

The Art Heals reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cancer Center, 540 W. Pueblo St. It is free but space is limited, so please RSVP to Stephanie Carlyle at stephanie@ccsb.org or call (805) 898-2116.

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