Being diagnosed with any type of cancer can be devastating. The physical and emotional toll that it can inflict on people and their families can be overwhelming. One day, Pat Hayes G’99, a graduate of Springfield College’s Graduate Art Therapy Program saw a Bill Moyer segment about Commonweal, a retreat for people with cancer. Instantly it clicked for Hayes.
“Someone was doing art therapy with cancer survivors and I knew I wanted to start a program like that,” said Hayes.
Then, just like that, a great idea was born.
The Springfield native has always been heavily into art and graphic design. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts in Graphic Communications, Hayes worked for many years doing graphic design and marketing.
After focusing on her career for several years, Hayes decided to go back to school and do her graduate work in Art Therapy. At first, Hayes thought about getting a second bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training. After talking with Dr. Simone Alter-Muri, Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Art Thrapy, she told Hayes that she was in the process of designing an amazing new graduate Art Therapy program and told Hayes to wait for it.
Thank goodness she did.
While in SC’s Graduate Art Therapy program, Hayes focused mostly on her graduate work, but in addition she also took some women’s health classes with Dr. Leslie Beale. During a class project, Hayes was teamed up with Marie Jablonski, now a lawyer in Springfield.
“Our project was on breast cancer and Marie told me about an organization called the Rays of Hope,” said Hayes. “I kept that information in the back of my head and during the time I was working on my thesis project.”
After that, everything seemed to fall into place for Hayes.
Hayes met with several social workers, nurses, and oncology physicians who thought her art therapy program made for breast cancer survivors was a brilliant idea.
After a lot of hard work, Hayes wrote her first grant as her thesis project and got her program funded and ready to go.
Thirteen years later, the Art from the Heart program is still thriving. Each year it takes place at various locations ranging from Springfield all the way up to Greenfield.
“The program is designed to bring survivors together to make art, meet others going through the same journey, and especially, have some fun,” Hayes said.
Hayes has facilitated over 30 different types of workshops.
During the workshops, the participants do many hand-crafted projects ranging from making hand-dyed scarves, to creating books, to making holiday cards, and painting floor cloths and flower pots.
Artistic talent isn’t required; the workshop is mainly to bring breast cancer survivors together, share stories and have a good time.
“I’m a cancer survivor myself and I’ve participated in her other workshops and they’re just a wonderful experience,” said Blizard Gallery Director Holly Murray. “While I am an artist, there are a lot of areas I haven’t dabbled in.”
Starting this past Monday, group members from Hayes’ workshops, as well as other women in the community will have their work displayed at SC’s Blizard Gallery.
“Being a survivor, I said to Pat last year that we should have a show because there’s been so much good work,” said Murray.
Murray and Hayes also agreed that the show would not only highlight Breast Cancer Awareness month, but it would also show off the amazing talent the women in the Western Mass. area have.
“One of the things Holly and I wanted to do with the exhibit was to highlight the work of the survivors for Breast Cancer Awareness month,” said Hayes. “But we also wanted to emphasize thriving after such a diagnosis and I believe the work is a testament to this.”
The exhibit will run at the Blizard Gallery until November 18, while workshops with Murray are currently going on now. Hayes’ official reception for Art from the Heart will be held today from 3-5 p.m. in the Blizard Gallery.
Gabby DeMarchi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org