What I am thankful for

This is the time of year when families gather and give thanks for the blessings in their life. After receiving the news that my surgery was successful in removing all of the cancer, I can say that I have so much to be thankful for!

I have spent much of this past year visiting Marshfield Clinic. I am no fan of medical appointments, and sometimes put off being seen for certain ailments because of this. However there is one truly enjoyable part of my frequent trips to Marshfield Clinic, and that is visiting New Visions Gallery.

In the early days of the pandemic, exhibits went virtual. Then the regular rotating exhibits that often feature artists from around the state had been momentarily replaced by pieces that are part of Marshfield Clinic’s permanent collection, which included works by some very famous artists such as Jasper Johns. In August, the gallery returned to offering exhibits featuring local artists.

When a person is dealing with major illness, either their own or that of a loved one, it can be difficult to find the time to engage in the cultural activities that bring joy to our lives. There is a reason that we refer to the arts as humanities; these are the things that make us feel human again in our moments of grief and despair.

In the fall of 2003, my grandfather received a stem cell transplant at UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Madison as treatment for multiple myeloma. Upon one of my visits to see him, I remember hearing beautiful piano music. A music therapist had been playing a baby grand piano in the lobby. Being able to share such an experience with the people I love during an uncertain time was a breath of fresh air, just as my visits to New Visions Gallery over the past few years have been.

I remember my first visit to New Visions Gallery. It was sometime in 1998. I was looking for area events to write about as a journalism student, and Illustrator Beth Peck was giving a presentation at this gallery in Marshfield. I didn’t realize the art gallery was inside of Marshfield Clinic.

One of my closest friends was an art major, and I figured that advice on how to become a professional illustrator would be of interest to students enrolled in a fine arts major, and I was interested as well. When I went to get directions to the gallery, it was then that I realized its location near the main entrance to the clinic. It struck me as an odd location at the time, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

Visiting the gallery has helped me make it through some very challenging times. It has inspired me to create art. It has given me something to focus on other than potential side effects, or my own mortality.

I have spent so much of my adult life starving myself of my own artistic pursuits. I have, at times, thought of the arts as unimportant, frivolous pursuits. I drew false comparisons, deciding to focus my career on providing human services and education rather than creating art, all the while not realizing how art can teach us about ourselves and heal us in profound ways.

This year, while I am grateful for all my doctors, for friends and family who have provided me with love and support, I am also grateful for artists and for connecting with the arts in unlikely places.