Tara Moorman survived cancer in 2001 and 2004. As an artist participating in the Living Proof exhibit at Muscatine Art Center, she knows firsthand how helpful art was and is in her life.

“For me it was very healing,” she said. “Color was very healing. Just working with paints was relaxing and uplifting to me, it gave me hope. It was something I’d do to relax. When I was doing my artwork I couldn’t think of anything else.

The exhibit opens at the arts center Oct. 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. and is accompanied by a free related program, Creative Expressions, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., which allows cancer survivors and others to express themselves artistically in therapeutic fashion. A second Creative Expressions will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19.

Although both programs enjoy a rich history in other markets, including the Quad-Cities, this is the first time either has been featured in Muscatine.

“We’re constantly looking for other places to take programming, and what’s beautiful about Muscatine is that they have this amazing museum that we felt was perfect for this,” said Pamela Crouch, a co-founder of Living Proof and an artist and cancer survivor. “This is just the beginning of our collaboration. We’ll have four Creative Expressions classes next year and then a major exhibition at the Muscatine museum in 2019. We’re very happy to work with them and it’s a great space.”

The admiration is mutual.

“We were aware of the Living Proof exhibitions on other sites and we wanted to be a part of that,” said Melanie Alexander, director of Muscatine Art Center. “It’s been interesting getting to know more about the programs and the artists. All of the artists who submitted works have artist statements that talk about when they were first diagnosed and it’s inspiring to see the willingness to continue to fight and find an outlet for all their emotions through their art.”

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Almost 8,000 people are involved in Living Proof, which was founded in 2010. Crouch says research has mounted showing the benefits of art therapy and its impact on relaxation and assistance in battling various maladies, including cancer.

“It can be amazingly beneficial in many ways,” she said. “Oftentimes, examination rooms feature cancer survivor artworks from Living Proof. When you first get diagnosed it can be very daunting and depressing. But seeing artworks from someone who went through the same thing and survived can be remarkably inspiring. You see that and think ‘I can get through this too.’”

Some of the works were submitted by those who had art backgrounds prior to their diagnosis, but largely the works are from artists who discovered or rediscovered the creative muse after diagnosis, and have never exhibited before.

“Part of it is that it can be sometimes hard to express what you feel in words but you can pick a color or an abstract image that feels right to you,” Alexander said. “It’s finding something relaxing or soothing or that gives a sense of accomplishment and motivation that can be helpful.”

“I think it works for people because by our nature we’re all creative, but sometimes we lose that spark along the way to adulthood,” Moorman said. “Sometimes this becomes a bit of a wake-up call, to get back to that creativity in all of us, and any time you can find something to help with your healing and recovery, it’s a good thing.”

Moorman is honored to be a part of the exhibit, and among the survivors in it.

“I think it’s wonderful to have us all gathered together,” she said. “Art is not a competitive sport. We all have different ways of expressing ourselves. If you’re in a healing crisis or just want to reconnect with your creativity or healing, there’s no better time than now to do that.”

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