- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - With a few blocks of wood and splashes of color, Jewel Smith spread the message of “faith, hope and love.”

Smith was among the residents of Signature HealthCare participating in the Reflect N Us art gallery at the Terre Haute nursing home. Her painted letters were displayed among a selection of other residents’ artwork on a table just inside the facility’s front doors.

“They handed me a paintbrush, and I just started painting,” she said, sitting in the lobby. “That’s about all I know.”

The gallery is part of a corporate-wide initiative to provide activities beyond the usual scope of a nursing home. But it can also work as occupational therapy, helping residents with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

“They’re looking at the picture, and then they’re drawing it step-by-step,” said Sean Medsker, the facility’s administrator. “So not only the fine motor skills on the brush, but also the thinking process of, ‘This is what the picture looks like,’ ‘This is how I want to get there.’”

About 80 to 90 of Signature’s 155 residents were taking part in the gallery, which has expanded since the activity began last year.

Some of the corporate-wide artwork will be uploaded to the Reflect N Us website. Grand-prize, runner-up and category winners will be announced later this summer.

A Tennessee facility resident’s photograph of lilies took the grand prize last year. Categories include painting, sewing/quilting, drawing, sculpture/pottery, graphite pencil, group art, mixed media, jewelry and poetry.

Some of the local residents’ artwork will later be displayed on a wall currently recognizing the facility’s hall of fame and throughout the building, Medsker said. Other pieces have been claimed by family or friends or will be kept in residents’ rooms.

Residents said their artwork helps keep them active, giving them more opportunities to socialize with residents.

“Artistic endeavors in here are something to keep me busy,” said Richard DeClue, whose plate with a pencil drawing of a waterfall was included in the display.

DeClue said he’s been an artist for years, working with wood carvings and wood burnings among other mediums. A 6-foot cigar store Indian he once carved from part of a white oak tree sold for $5,000 at auction.

Signature admissions director Shelly Watson said the facility was working to provide DeClue more space to do woodworking.

Resident Lisa Nottingham’s room looked like an art gallery.

A collection of wooden pegs decorated with maps of Indiana sat near the television. Next to that was a painting of a lighthouse.

One of her latest projects was a work in progress. Nottingham, who is recovering from complications of hip replacement surgery, rolled her wheelchair up to a table full of art supplies and opened a sketchbook to a nature scene with a bird and a butterfly.

Grabbing a colored pencil, she began to shade in more of the drawing.

Nottingham explained that her mother encouraged her to draw when she was a child and has been doing it for years. After moving to Signature in March, she received a sketchpad and pencils from the staff.

“They’re, like, my inspiration, I guess,” she said.

Her owls were on display in the gallery.

Medsker said Nottingham and some of the residents with longtime artistic talents have provided a lot of input in what’s included in the art gallery.

“They’ve driven the bus on this,” he said. “They’re telling us what to do.”

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1Btdo5u

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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