…it wasn’t until my mid-40’s while recovering from a second cancer diagnosis that I started to think about my mother’s creative community and the power of art as a healing tool.
I come from a creative family where my formative years were spent alongside my mother, Myrna Hirsch, who was a fine artist and member of the Ridgewood Art Institute in Northern New Jersey. In the early 1970’s it was called “The Art Barn”, a place where artists and students gathered to paint, observe light and shadow, exhibit their work, drink lots of coffee and learn from one another. I was just a little kid and would lay on the hardwood floor and watch the sunlight stream in from the glass ceiling as the artists staged their still life props, position live models and begin the magical process of creating works of art.
It was during these years when my mother was in her early 30’s that she was diagnosed with cancer. I witnessed neighbors and relatives come by the house and drop off prepared foods, but the artists came and stayed a while to talk about art, nature and creating beauty. Arthur Maynard, the founder of the Ridgewood Art Institute, would sit with me in the green grass of our front lawn playfully offering hope as we searched for 4-leaf clovers. I was 9 in November of 1972, when my mother would pass away from breast cancer.
These memories would lay dormant for years as I grew up, made my way South to attend college at UNC-Greensboro and begin carving my path as an artist and designer. It was in my early 30’s that I too would discover I had cancer. And it wasn’t until my mid-40’s while recovering from a second cancer diagnosis that I started to think about my mother’s creative community and the power of art as a healing tool. This prompted me to reflect on my own journey through illness and I realized how my artistic endeavors empowered me with new found confidence and a sense of freedom from worry that was directly related to emotional healing and renewal of life’s possibilities.
In 2007, the idea for Hirsch Wellness Healing Arts and Cancer Support Programs was born. In 2008, with $100 in the bank, our first Writing to Heal workshop was launched. Now, as we approach 2023, Hirsch will celebrate 15 years of providing free of charge creative Arts and Wellness opportunities to support the emotional, social and physical needs of the cancer community – which includes cancer patients in treatment, people in survivorship and those who care for someone with cancer.
As a 24-year breast cancer survivor, I myself have experienced and witnessed in others how the process of creativity brings a focus to the work at hand and stills our minds to allow all who participate to receive healing. Each month at Hirsch, more than a dozen fine artists share their talents with 300 participants attending our life-affirming group activities; and Hirsch is the only community-based nonprofit in the region offering no cost Arts and Wellness programming designed for cancer patients and their families.
From day one, Hirsch programs have been funded by the generosity of individual donors and corporate sponsors. Your gift to Hirsch makes a positive direct impact on the lives of individuals who face the many challenges of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.