Letter from Cindy Lazard-Hunt (Walter’s Sister)

December 3, 2014 By vincent-uribe

Dear Supporters,Picture this: It’s a Tuesday evening and my husband and I arrive home and find 26 wrappers of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the trash. We called Walter in the room to ask him if he had eaten 26 PB&J sandwiches and his response was “I don’t know”. This was our first sign that my brother, who was born with Down Syndrome, was showing signs of dementia. He was later formally diagnosed with dementia. Prior to his diagnosis, Walter participated in a daily sports program for special needs adults at the Chicago Park District. The sports program became very difficult for him as his reflexes and response to the activities slowed down. After his diagnosis my husband and I knew it was time to consider different activities for Walter.    We were introduced to The Arts of Life by Walter’s roommate, Stefan, who is an artist at their Chicago Studio. Stefan’s sister was very complimentary of the program so we decided to check it out with Walter. We were greeted by the Studio Manager, Caitlin, who was very warm and genuine welcoming us with open arms (Walter is a hugger). After introductions and an overview of The Arts of Life, we took a tour of the studio. We were warmly welcomed by artist Dave, one of the most charismatic individuals you will ever meet. He was very familiar with his fellow artists and their work and gave us a genuine tour including the open mic area where the band rehearses and performs, ending the tour in the art gallery where he showed us all the completed works of art. While this was Walter’s first visit, he was very comfortable with everyone there, the artists, staff, and volunteers. I was most impressed to learn the studio’s philosophy of equality and collective decision making, which explains the pride and ownership the artists have about their place of work.  There was a six-month gap from the time we visited The Arts of Life until the time Walter joined. During this time Walter’s dementia progressed and he was becoming less talkative and more withdrawn. While the day program he was attending was a secure learning environment, it was not motivating to Walter. He started at The Arts of Life and acclimated quickly to his new community. He began engaging with new friends, getting to know the staff and volunteers, and learning how to paint.  Within a few months, Walter found his own style of painting! He enjoys going to The Arts of Life each day to create art and spend time with his friends, especially Angela. The Arts of Life is not just an art program for adults with or without disabilities, but a place where Walter and other artists have a sense of independence, self-confidence and ambition. This is what inspired me to become a board member – I wanted to be a part of the energy and enthusiasm that makes The Arts of Life a special place.  I cannot imagine what we would do without The Arts of Life; this program has been so stimulating for Walter. I hope you will join me in showing your support for this wonderful program in the City of Chicago. By investing in The Arts of Life, you will help Walter and others like him seek their full potential.Your gift starts today.  A tax-deductible donation of:?$25 provides enough funds to throw a birthday party for one artist;?$600 secures transportation for an artist to/from The Arts of Life for six months;?$5,000 equips one studio with an entire years’ worth of art supplies (paints, pencils, brushes, & canvases). Sincerely,Cindy Lazard-Hunt The Arts of Life Executive Board Member