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Art to heal the artist

Virginia Neary Carrithers is delighted to participate in an exhibit that touts the healing power of art.For more than 25 years, art has helped her endure the ravages of multiple sclerosis.”Art has helped me,” she said. “It has to.” Several of Neary’s works are included in “Hearts & Souls,” andexhibit of the healing arts at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts.Neary, who goes by “Ginny,” was stricken in 1976 with MS. Almost overnight, she went from an active horse racer and trainer, a model and an aspiring artist, to a paralyzed and frightened patient in a hospital bed. She was just 26.Since then, Neary, who now lives part-time in Glenwood Springs and part-time on a ranch in Argentina, has endured lengthy bouts with MS, which attacks the central nervous system. She moves in and out of hospitals and medical facilities almost as regularly as the changing of the seasons.In the late 1970s, Neary gained national attention as a spokesperson for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In 1980 she co-founded the “Race Against MS.” Through corporate sponsorships and sales of her art she raised millions of dollars for the organization. Neary commissioned several pieces in which she captured famous horses, jockeys and race tracks, such as Saratoga. She shot television spots for MS and came into the celebrity spotlight.But she didn’t stop with the MS Society. Through exhibits and special events, Neary has raised money for numerous organizations, including Paul Newman’s Hole in the Woods camp, and Sopris Therapy Services in Carbondale. Sopris provides “hippotherapy,” a form of physical therapy that combines physical and speech therapy with horseback riding. Hippotherapy boasts a high success rate.Neary also used her art to get through lengthy bouts with MS, and to get the most out of the in-between times when she was well enough to paint and enjoy the outdoors.Included in this exhibit is an original 1981 painting of the race horse John Henry and jockey Bill Shoemaker. The painting helped raise more than $1 million for MS, Neary said.”This show,” said Neary, “fits in with what I did with MS.”

Neary’s exhibited works are not for sale, although some select pieces are available in limited edition prints. The originals will become part of a national touring exhibit of the healing arts, which she hopes to open this fall in Denver. She hopes to take the exhibit to major cities across the country.The exhibit will be more of a consciousness-raiser than a fund-raiser, she said. “I want to reach people this time.”The message she hopes to impart is one of taking care. “Let’s take care of ourselves, let’s take care of the earth,” said Neary, who has also used her art to raise money for environmental causes.A watercolor, originally titled “Mother Earth Loves Her Children,” reflects her love for all living things. The piece, also part of the exhibit, shows a blooming hollyhock that grew on her land in Argentina.On one of the leaves is a child, her daughter, Sky, at age 4. Another, “Baby Beans,” is a simple watercolor of lavender beans shooting from the flowers that gave them birth.”I hope to paint more of the healing plants in the future,” she said. Food, after all, provides us food and medicine. “I want to show more of what this earth offers us,” Neary said.In many of her works are handwritten, poetic musings – unrehearsed and spontaneously written messages of hope.Neary said she still holds a deep love for horses, but has moved on to paint nature and people. In taking figure drawing classes at the Center for the Arts, she’d discovered her love for drawing the human figure.One of those pieces, a pastel and charcoal, is one of the first created for her upcoming exhibit. She calls it “Creativity Heals.””That’s the message,” said Neary. “Any kind of creativity heals.”

WHOMore than 20 local artistsWHAT Hearts & Souls, a nonjuried exhibit of art by artists and healers who are inspired by the healing power of the artsWHEREGlenwood Springs Center for the Arts, 601 Sixth St., Glenwood SpringsWHENDaily through Feb. 28HOW MUCHAdmission is free; some works are for sale, and prices are marked


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