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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Art program offers support for people with Parkinson's disease

His head shakes in unison with his trembling hands as he moves his marker across a white paper, leaving behind traces of blue ink.

Chip Colley, 54, is a self-taught artist. He’s also one of about one million Americans with Parkinson’s disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At Art for Life, a free program offered every Wednesday for people with movement disorders and their caregivers, he is not restrained by his disorder.

“I think it’s odd I can hardly write my name,” he said. “But I can draw a straight line.”

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic movement disorder that causes slow, involuntary tremors, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Katherine Castle, an Art for Life volunteer who also has Parkinson’s disease, said she doesn’t want to be defined by her disorder.

“I don’t want to be the artist with Parkinson’s disease — I just want to be the artist,” she said. “Parkinson’s is part of me, but it’s not all of me.”

Some of the activities at Art for Life include drawing, sketching, painting and creating origami.

Jill Sonke, assistant director for Shands Arts in Medicine, said the program is an expressive and social outlet for those with the disorder.

“It’s a disease that can be managed well but does require support,” Sonke said. “It’s stressful.”

Colley, who couldn’t draw before his disorder, wants people to know that living with a movement disorder doesn’t have to be negative.

“There can be a blessing in there somewhere. It’s helped me cope with it,” he said.

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Art for Life is offered every Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Criser Cancer Resource Center.

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