The MENTOR Network

Success Stories

Lori Shines With an Empty Canvas

Lori shines in day programsTo say that art made its way into Lori’s life at the right time would be an understatement. Lori had recently lost her mother and reacted by isolating herself from others. Battling depression and struggling to envision her life without her mom, Lori was in need of something to help restore her spirit. In search of an outlet for her emotions, she joined MENTOR Oregon’s Brooklyn Art Space Alternative to Employment program, a center-based day program that teaches and encourages the use of art to enrich the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gaining Skills and Confidence through Art

During her first weeks at the program, Lori chose to keep to herself and quietly grieve for her mother. She also struggled with an overwhelming fear of separation from staff members, which limited her participation in the program’s daily activities. Eventually, though, after being exposed to a variety of art mediums—and with a little encouragement—she began to realize that a paintbrush and an empty canvas could help her communicate things she sometimes had trouble putting into words.

Painting quickly became Lori’s form of release; her form of communication; and a way for her to remember her mother. This revelation not only opened a door to a new hobby, but it also helped Lori gain a new found drive and sense of confidence.

“Painting proved to be a powerful vehicle for Lori to express her feelings and work through her grief,” said Chris Knox, the art coordinator at the Brooklyn site. “She learned that art doesn’t always have to be happy. She was encouraged to paint pictures that expressed her feelings—whether they were positive or negative.”

The turning point for Lori occurred with the creation of a painting she titled “Mom & Fire.” The piece was an expression of the love she had for her mother and her own feelings of overcoming loss and loneliness. It was appreciated by both staff members and peers and Lori beamed with pride when it sold at a local art show.

“By using art as an outlet, Lori has been able to express some very difficult feelings and has developed meaningful friendships at the program. She has developed a sense of pride and confidence that is directly related to her art.”
— Joshua Peyton,
Program Director, MENTOR Oregon