Click here to visit the exhibition photo album featuring images and descriptions of every piece (including pricing, when available). Artist bios can be found below.

2015 Art Show Cover33rd Annual Mary Free Bed Fine Arts Exhibition
April 20-August 12, 2015
10 am- 4 pm, Monday-Friday
Mary Free Bed Outpatient Therapy Center, 3rd Floor

The 33rd Annual Mary Free Bed Fine Arts Exhibition features Michigan artists who are physically challenged. The event promotes community awareness and education while providing a showcase for artists of all abilities.

The Mary Free Bed Guild will purchase selected works from the exhibition for permanent display in the hospital. The remaining works, at the discretion of the artists, may be available for sale.

Click the links below for downloadable PDFs of art exhibition materials:

Use the hashtag #MFBArt15 to join the conversation.

Robert LeRoy Bailey

Growing up in Hutchinson, Kan., during the Dust Bowl, my mother encouraged my artful nature. My mechanical aptitude came from working on farm equipment with my father. After my mother’s death, I lived with my aunt and uncle until I completed high school.

During my senior year, I took flying lessons. Due to my high math scores and flying experience, I was one of the youngest men who served in the U.S. Air Force and I was posted with India’s transport command from 1943 to 1946. My artistic ventures continued. I painted the noses of bombers, designed and executed stage backdrops and props for a Hindu religious celebration and completed the design of an Air Force chapel in Assam.

After the war, I was admitted into the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Arts in design, painting and sculpture in 1951. I also earned a second degree in abnormal psychology from the University of Chicago. While going to school, I worked nights as an overhead crane operator in the steel mills.

I lived in Chicago for 20 years. My first residence was upstairs of Minsky’s Burlesque House where I created stage and set designs and invited some of the local talent to pose for paintings during their dance breaks. The 1950s and 1960s were my most prolific years. I became well known for my photography and sculpture. While I was vice president of the Chicago Society of Artists, I designed and built its gallery, which unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 1957. Later that year, I helped organize Exhibit “A,” a group of 24 local artists, including Edna Arnow, Donald Schweikert, Angelo Testa, Victor Perlmutter, Bruno Bak and Morris Barzani.

In 1959, I received a grant from the Mexican government to spend six months capturing imagery of Mayan children, villages and schools. This resulted in a black-and-white photographic exhibition in Mexico City (now part of the Smithsonian Collection). In 1963, I received my highest honor, the International Design Award, for my sculpture.

I experienced my first stroke in 1993, but it slowed me only briefly before I went back to my art-driven lifestyle. I lived in a small apartment above a dance studio in Dexter, Mich., and continued painting, sculpting and creating computer-aided imagery. After another stroke in 2004, I moved into the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. I’m well into my 90s now, but my creativity remains unstoppable.

David Chupp

My involvement in the art world actually started over 30 years ago when I was in my teens. During the 70s and early 80s, I took all the art classes I could in high school and went to art shows and received a number of awards for my art. I loved many types of art but was strongly encouraged to pursue other areas of training and work instead of being a starving artist. In 1980, I decided to pursue a Bachelors of Religious education degree. The college I went to had no art department.

I trained to do some kind of ministry, then teaching and then construction. I have worked in a few different ministries and non-profit organizations, including Mel Trotter Ministries, where I worked for about 12 years as the support services director. I really enjoyed working there.

While working at Mel Trotter, a couple of things happened that drastically changed my life. First, I had a couple of leg injuries damaging the nerves in my right leg. I developed chronic pain in my right calf. This has since progressed to include both my legs and up to the middle of my back. I am always in pain; sometimes crippling pain.

Then on January 12, 2001, I had another work-related accident. The PTO driver on a tractor hit me in the head. I received a closed head injury which resulted in me needing to leave a job I had loved. Now I could not work like I did before, I cannot concentrate, have very little short-term memory and have other problems related to the head injury.

A strange thing happened after this accident. I started to draw and paint more and more. I found myself enjoying doing art more than ever.

Lane Cooper

I was born and raised in Ludington, Mich., as a first-born identical twin, in August 1941. We lived in a rural country store and later moved to a farm. I grew up with 5 sisters and one younger brother to follow. I created a lot of my own toys out of scraps of wood and sticks when I was a little boy. I liked to draw and paint, so I took art lessons in high school.

Later, when I married my wife Rosemary, I made a lot of Christmas toys and gifts for family and friends. I spent many years making a lot of wooden things.

My artistic and creative medium changed as I struggled with a closed head injury from a severe auto accident in 2003. Because of the injuries, I opted to take an earlier-than-expected retirement as a maintenance mechanic from Alticor Corporation in Ada, Mich. With my early retirement, I had more free time between headaches to create, plus my art helped me cope with my struggles.

My endeavors blossomed into experimenting with several different mediums between the violent headaches. I came to enjoy working with scrap metal to create wildlife or whatever the passion led me to create. Due to my injuries, not all my attempts are completed, but put aside in my shop – “cluttered as my brain” – to re-surface another day for completion.

My future goal now is to pursue a worthwhile journey down the path of creativity as a “starving artist.” I am using various materials and creative methods to show artistic techniques or means of expression.

I thank God for the inspirations within me and for giving me the talent to express it. I use no patterns, because I can “just see it.” Each day is a new idea. As ideas and signals in my brain cross, creativity comes forth.

June DeWind

My artistic ability surfaced when I was very young with a passion to paint on canvas. Much later I attended Junior College for advanced watercolor instruction. I took watercolor workshops from professional artists such as Anita Engels, Judi Betts, Linda Baker and Maggie McClellen.

I also enjoy using the media of pastels, oils, and carbon and colored pencils. I paint from my photos in studio sometimes using several for a composition. I hope to draw the viewer into my work simply for pleasure. I lost my leg in an auto accident and spend more time painting when I’m in a wheelchair.

Michael Donahue

I have been physically challenged with multiple sclerosis since 1983, but I have tried to remain as active and positive as possible since being diagnosed.

I have been interested in drawing and painting as long as I can remember and I have attended Kendall College of Art & Design.

I live in Kent City, Mich., with my lovely wife, Margaret (also an artist), and our two fantastic children, David and Emily.

Benjamin Ashley Flaten

I was born in 1979 and was diagnosed with a seizure disorder at the age of four. As a young boy, I enjoyed my life on a farm with all of the animals, and I enjoyed making my own toys out of found objects such as springs, spoons, fence wire and feathers. My mother recalls me creating little animal sculptures from natural clay that I would set out in the sun to dry. I was home schooled which allowed me to express my freedom in education and creativity.

As a teenager in the public school system, I excelled in art and theater. I was awarded a scholarship to Kendall College of Art and Design; however, in my senior year I was brutally attacked and beaten and sustained a traumatic brain injury. I managed to graduate from high school, but did not go on to Kendall. I did, however, continue to make art, and took pottery and sculpture classes at the community college and at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. My seizure disorder was problematic at this time and interfered with employment, and I was unable to drive.

In May 2002, I was hit by a car while walking home one evening. I sustained many injuries including a broken back, neck, ribs, legs, left shoulder, arm, wrist, pelvis, as well as a fractured skull that resulted in a second traumatic brain injury. I also suffered cervical spinal cord damage that caused partial paralysis in my left arm, and severe nerve pain. I have had to undergo many corrective surgeries, and I am still recovering and challenged daily with the painful reminders of the accident. But I continue to make my art. I have recently found the courage to pick up the torch and weld metal sculptures again, despite my physical and cognitive limitations.

My art is what I live and breathe for, and it gives me purpose and meaning – my hands are co-creators in life. My art is healing for me, and for other who see it. I am Trailing My Path … for others to follow.

Reyna Garcia

I am Reyna Garcia, an artist originally from Mexico City but now living in Grand Rapids. I was diagnosed with polio, which affected my left leg, when I was 6 years old. That’s when my life changed. While my parents tried to support me by taking me to a rehabilitation hospital for therapy for a few years, I didn’t understand the situation and I struggled with walking and the thought of losing my leg.

But my strength and persistence grew as I became an adult. After moving to New York, my dreams came true. I met a doctor in New York that performed surgery on my leg so that amputation was out of the realm of possibilities. I’m grateful to the Little Brothers of the Gospel that helped me get to doctor appointments and helped with translation.

Moving to Grand Rapids was another way for me to get additional help. Mary Free Bed was the reason for my relocation. At Mary Free Bed, I received financial support to have shoes specially made for me. Now I can walk with confidence.

My art, which is based on the empowerment of women, is a direct representation of my triumph over adversity. I began painting at the age of 15 and studied art at Bellas Artes School in Mexico. You may contact me at or visit my blog spot at

James A. Herdegen

Jim is married to his wife Judy. They have three children, 7 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. At the age of 24, Jim had an industrial accident that resulted in the amputation of his left hand. He did not let this keep him from his love of fishing and hunting. His guns and poles were adapted to accommodate different situations, in the field and on the water. Jim also enjoyed golfing in leagues as well, and did so for many years. At the age of 50, Jim needed his shoulder surgically rebuilt. At that time he gave up strenuous activity and turned to his other interest, photography for leisure time fun. Jim takes pictures to enlarge and decorate his home. He also uses his photos to make greeting cards for his family. Nature, barns and old structures are his favorite subjects. Recently he took the photos for his community calendar.

In 2009 Jim was encouraged to show his photographs in the Mary Free Bed Art Exhibition and continues to participate. Jim never leaves home without his camera, and takes many day trips in search of the perfect photo opportunity.

Derrick Hollowell

Derrick Hollowell was born February 23, 1965, to Patricia Hollowell and Rochelle Atkins. During his formative years he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. Howard Hollowell. As a child he split his interests between sports and art. He was a tremendous student and was advanced directly from 4th to 6th grade. He was very influenced by his uncle, James Hollowell, who was studying art at Grand Valley State College.

When Derrick was about 10 years old, during one of his rocket league football games, his uncle perceived that he was running with a slight limp. His mother noticed the same change in his gait while watching him play later that summer. This change led to numerous medical visits, examinations and diagnoses. A specific medical conclusion was never confirmed. Eventually a spinal cord surgery was attempted to correct Derrick’s new disability.

After unsuccessful attempts at rehab, Derrick continued his education. He graduated Class President from Creston High School. He went on to Grand Valley and earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree with an emphasis on Printmaking. He also began a prolific music career based on his exposure to hip-hop music in the early 1980s. His group, Euro-K, signed a record label deal and filmed a music video for MTV.

Derrick has traveled much of the U.S. promoting music and art. He has dabbled in radio broadcasting, voiceover and acting. Over the past few years Derrick has been heavily involved in youth mentoring and community building. He worked as Program Director for The Hattie Beverly Tutoring Center and was lead youth instructor for The Grand Rapids Art Museum and Creation House. He currently operates a community art gallery (The Gallery at 742 Franklin) and serves on the board of directors for several community based organizations.

Artistically, Derrick is growing exponentially. Along with a constant demand for portrait work he is exploring new areas of Expressionist Line Drawing. He is absorbing new influences to complement his longtime affection for Japanese Printmaking, Impressionism, and German Expressionisms. In terms of new ground, he is blending his interests in Hip-Hop music with visual interpretation. Derrick plans to continue to influence young people through the arts and build community through Art and Education-based economics.

Elaine J. Hoogeboom

I was born on June 12, 1954. I grew up, and stayed in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area all of my life. I received a BA in 1982 from Aquinas College. I went on and obtained a Masters of social work in 1984 at Michigan State University. I then worked in the social work field for over 25 years. Due to a childhood injury I struggled with increasing back pain which inevitably led to three successive back surgeries within 4 years. I began taking pictures while participating in physical rehabilitation following my first back surgery. I would walk a minimum of two miles a day always carrying a camera and taking shots of birds, flowers, butterflies and anything that caught my fancy. I did not have any formal training in photography but did seem to have a good eye for the beauty of nature. I have been shooting pictures for the last 6 years and use these pictures as a reference for my paintings.

I began working with watercolor pencils about 5 years ago after my third back surgery left me with many hours of solitary time. The anesthesia left me with aphasia and I withdrew into the world of art and images. After a year of speech therapy I am now beginning to show the world the gift I feel I received from the adversity of the complications of the last surgery. I have had no formal training in the field of art. I won three Guild Purchase Awards from the Mary Free Bed 27th, 28th, and 29th Annual Art Exhibits. I have gained entrance into the Celebration of the Arts, a Festival of Spiritual Arts in 2008 and 2009. I won the Legacy Trust Prize in 2010 and 2011. Finally, I have shown pieces of my work in Art Prize 2009, 2010 and 2011 and several pieces in Art Peers 2009. I continue to practice and work with my gift on a daily basis. I have had no formal training in art and was unable to paint prior to the unfortunate circumstances of the last surgery. I believe that my ability to draw and paint is the gift I received in exchange for the loss of my speech.

Karen Klawiter

I have had multiple sclerosis since 1983. I was married for 16 years and have 3 children. I went back to school in 1992 to study architecture. Shortly after, I started a business designing barrier-free and universal design homes. I also consulted for Disability Advocates reviewing blueprints for builders and homeowners to make their homes more user-friendly. I have tried many art mediums and entered 3 paintings in the Mary Free Bed art show about 25 years ago and sold them all. I’ve tried colored pencil, acrylic paints etc. none of which satisfied me like oil paint. I like fine detail so for a while did miniature floral design with small artificial flowers. I tried 3D origami last year then hit on polymer clay embroidery. It satisfied my affinity for fine detail and is forgiving of mistakes and like oil paint can be left to finish another day. I don’t believe in giving up, just modifying.

For more information about purchasing my art, please email me directly at

Janet Long-Baker

I was born and raised in lower Michigan. I now live in northern lower Michigan and have always been involved in art in one way or another since I was a child. I took art classes all through high school. Although I seldom painted then, I did life-like sketches of animals and birds. It wasn’t until years later that I began to paint with acrylic in art classes at West Shore Community College. Since then, I have taken classes in oil painting led by well-known artist, Robert Salo. Recently, I have been in classes given by a well-known Michigan artist, Rod Lawrence.

In February 2000, I injured my back in a fall. Later that year I underwent surgery. Since that time, I have had limited motion.

I love painting wildlife and scenery and love re-creating God’s creations on canvas. I just love the out-of-doors and all it has to offer. I hope that my work will make people look at nature, the wildlife and their surroundings in a whole new light, appreciate it even more and want to preserve it.

Carole McNitt

Carole has been creating crewel embroidery pictures for nearly 10 years. Similar to embroidery, crewel work uses yarn rather than embroidery thread. Having no previous art education or training, Carole taught herself by following the pattern provided with each picture. A trip to Jo-Ann Fabrics led Carole to discovering crewel work and inspired a desire to learn the craft. Chronic back pain and arthritis has resulted in multiple surgeries requiring extensive physical therapy. Being able to create crewel embroidery art allows Carole to focus on something other than the pain. She often will make pictures for family and friends as well selling it at an annual art fair. Carole recently received inpatient therapy services at Mary Free Bed following her latest back surgery.

Kathlene Melvin

I was born in 1965 on a hot July day in Rota, Spain, at a navel base. I grew up in Michigan. I was born premature which presented many years of health problems and more as I get older. I was diagnosed at the early age of 14 with arthritis and a heart abnormality called mitral valve prolapse. I started drawing as an outlet and found out that I had a talent for the arts. At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, right partial lobe seizures, thought to be brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning from a car I had been driving. I didn’t let that stop me. I raised 3 wonderful children and worked as an EMT and a nurse assistant. Then the day came when my seizures became worse and more frequent to the point that I could not work even on medication.

In 2004, I decided to show my kids that you can do anything you put your mind to so I started college. I went for an associate degree in interior design. I had a rough time between trying to remember what I learned the previous semester, raising a family and suffering with seizures throughout the process. I graduated with a business degree in interior design. I couldn’t have made it without the support of my sisters, parents, my children and instructors who devoted extra time to me. I then moved to Grand Rapids and married my high school sweetheart. Due to severe arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, heart problems, COPD, diabetes complications, uncontrolled seizures and memory problems, I am unable to work. I have been disabled since 1999. To cope and live, I paint!

I am now a new grandma with an 18-month-old granddaughter and am expecting two more grandchildren in the next couple of months. Along the way, I have learned that even though life throws you barriers, with strength and determination you can make it and become a better person.

Darryl Nero

In 1981, Darryl’s senior year at Cooley High School in Detroit, he was awarded Delta Sigma Theta 1st Art Scholarship. Instead of college, he chose to join the US Navy to acquire a degree in architecture.

Darryl was injured in a car accident on May 4, 1986. He was diagnosed with a closed head injury. He lost his memory and had to be rehabilitated.

Before that date, Darryl was a talented artist and showcased in various art exhibits. He sold his paintings on a regular basis at Wild Wings Gallery in Grosse Pointe, Mich.

After the accident, he could barely draw a straight line. He went through an extensive program of cognitive therapy. Darryl is still on the road to recovery, but he is getting better as the days progress.

God has blessed Darryl to return with his gift fourfold. His ability to express art in detail is remarkable. He exhibited at Mary Free Bed in 1989, as part of his therapy. Since then, his desire to draw and paint has accelerated.

Mary Oldham

When Mary was a baby, she contracted pneumonia and had a temperature of 106 degrees. She had to be submerged in ice water with her winter coat and shoes still on. Two separate neurologists thought she might have contracted spinal meningitis, but it was never diagnosed. Her illness left her with a weakness on her left side and other challenges. As a child with special needs, some doctors said that Mary would never be able to read or write, but she did learn to read and write. Her interest in art began when she started making what she called “designs.”

However, for many years Mary stopped drawing due to illness. At one point, Mary weighed only 78 pounds. She eventually was diagnosed with thyroid problems and with proper medication she was soon feeling much better and began drawing again.

Mary won the first art contest she ever entered in the 1980s by drawing the “Campbell Soup Kids.” In 2004, she entered a second contest that was sponsored by Community Mental Health for Central Michigan. Her original drawing was selected and placed on the cover of their annual report. Her colorful drawing represents friendship, love and peace for all people of the world.

Her drawings are created in mixed-media, using pencils, colored pencils, markers, paints, sparkles, etc. She enjoys drawing butterflies, angels, fairies, buildings, landscapes, actors and musicians. Her artwork is often inspired by her love of music. She has drawn pictures of the Beatles. She drew a picture of Stevie Wonder. She said she identifies with him because he has a disability and she likes that he does a lot of charity work.

Mary likes to make greeting cards out of her drawings and is hoping to sell them.

Mary was selected as the featured artist at Mary Free Bed in 2006. Her family is very proud of her accomplishments!

Randy Pollard

I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich. I graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 1969. I studied printing and received a certificate from the Michigan State Technical Institute. Also, I studied the zone system in photography at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Then I attended the Rod Planck photography seminar. I became interested in photography at a young age.

Born with a hearing loss has made me more aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us every day with every season. Capturing the natural beauty in each unique photograph gives me a serene feeling within. To complete my photographs I also cut the matting and custom-made frame. Photography will always be a part of my life as I capture nature with film.

Gerald Pudlik

I was struck by an automobile while crossing the street on June 11, 1982. I was 8 years old.

After being in a coma for 3 months and extensive rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed, I returned home to resume life with my family and friends. I am the middle child of 3.

From then on, I viewed life from a different perspective. My love for the tropics and travel motivate my paintings. I work with acrylics.

In addition, my mother is involved in the world of tea which I share with her. Since it is very difficult to find cards for the holidays focused on a tea theme, I provide an annual tea-related work of art that is transformed into greeting cards. A website is in the process of being developed, where I will specialize in tea cards.

My art has connected me to many new experiences and friends. I am also able to reflect my feelings and creativity in the process of my artwork.

My world continues to grow as I am able to experience joy and bring it to life on an easel.

Loretta K. Rolison

Loretta Rolison was struck with Guillain Barre syndrome in mid-November of 1996. Initially she was totally paralyzed, but after two and ½ years of extensive inpatient and outpatient therapy, she advanced to walking with AFOs and a cane (which she still relies on to walk today). Although she has recovered most of her fine and gross motor skills, she still has physical complications and experiences frequent bouts of fatigue due to the GBS.

She attributes her recovery to the knowledgeable, caring treatment she received from medical personnel and therapists, and the support and prayers of family and friends. Two verses that brought her comfort and gave her courage during her paralysis and recovery were: “… with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Although Rolison previously painted with traditional oils, she now paints with oils thinned with water rather than turpentine. With the water-soluble oils, clean-up is easier and there are less toxic fumes to inhale. She loves the smell, texture and colors of paint and creates her paintings from photos, memory, and imagination.

Although she previously signed her paintings Heppe (her maiden name) and MFW for My Father’s World showing her appreciation for the beauty of “the earth (that) is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein”, (Psalm 24:1), she has gotten lazy and now simply signs them with her initials: L.K.R. (Loretta Kathryn Rolison).

Jasen R. Routley

I was 32 at the time of my accident. My oldest son and I were riding motor cross at a friend’s private track. I was attempting a double jump, but at the launch space, my four-wheeler and I were thrown forward. I landed on my head and my machine was on top of me. The impact shattered my vertebrae at C5 and fractured C6 causing my spinal cord injury.

I have two sons. Before my accident I was a supervisor, foreman and leader in several positions in the construction business and the EPA.

I have always had a passion for art. From the time I was 8 years old, I have attended art classes and considered a career as an architectural engineer.

While at Mary Free Bed, my occupational therapist, Amy, encouraged me to use art as a method of improving my motor skills. My first drawings were chickadees and other birds. I have since attended art classes through the Newaygo County Council for the Arts. My teacher there, Lindsay, made a clay cast of my hand and found an 80-year-old man who is a carver. I have never met him, but he made a rosewood tool that fits my hand perfectly and allows me to hold an instrument- pencil, paint brush, etc. My hands have tendinosis and I would not be able to grasp without this. She also found another retired gentleman who made a drafting table to fit my wheelchair.

I enjoy the outdoors and love nature. I enjoy fishing, driving my pontoon boat and paths that wind through my property. My family is the center of my life. I work in watercolor, acrylics, charcoal and prisma colors. I also enjoy driving my van and the independence and sense of freedom that allows.

Miles Scharfenberg

The first time Miles was presented with a large canvas, an easel and bright paint colors, he was very excited and the result was “Miles e-MOTION”; named for the exuberance and joy that set his arms and paint flying. This was about two years ago.

Being visually, hearing and motor impaired, Miles requires a variety of adaptive equipment, and significant assistance, but when this is provided, he is elated. We consider Miles’ work, in general, a collaboration, that he engages in with his aides who are all occupational therapy students from Western Michigan University (WMU). They excel in adapting his environment and assisting Miles to make his own choices, so as to make his art as much his own as possible.

Miles uses brushes with built-up handles and an easel that presents the canvas right at his level. The student therapist helps by rotating the canvas, so that he can reach all areas of the canvas, and presenting him with a variety of paint colors. He will hand you the brush when he is through with a particular color. Lately, we have been doing a variety of collages, with bright-colored tissue paper, and newsprint, that requires only tear and place, to create a riot of bright colors for a background for him to paint on.

Miles was a preemie, born 15 weeks early. He had a ventricular bleed which caused cerebral palsy, and hearing impairment probably caused by the use of the antibiotic gentamicin. Miles had retinopathy of prematurity, and has undergone at least a dozen eye surgeries. He has a baclofen pump, and has endured multiple surgeries, spinal, brain and hip fracture. He remains extremely determined to be his own person, participate in life and express himself. Miles’ work was recently featured in the new OJOT, The Open Online Journal of OT, published by WMU.

Becky Sue Schroeder

I was born 34 years ago with spastic cerebral palsy. I have little control over my hands and arms and am confined to a wheelchair. I am so near-sighted that I am legally blind and my spastic face and chest muscles make speech difficult for me. The only part of my body I have dependable control of is my head.

I have always been interested in art and tried many forms and methods. Even when I was successful in achieving the image I desired it was frustrating and tiring because it was so difficult with my spastic muscles.

A baclofen infusion pump surgery a few years ago resulted in a great reduction in my spasticity. I was delighted to learn that I was now able to paint using my own fingerprints — although sometimes I need assistance to hold my arm in place so I can put my fingerprints exactly where I want them to go. I began taking art classes 3 years ago and am learning to paint with headgear and a special device developed for me by my occupational therapist called a “roller skate.” I am also learning to paint with my headgear on a computer touch screen.

With a computer and the assistance of a loyal and caring staff, I am able to incorporate my art into designs that can be applied to items that I hope are found attractive and useful — such as note cards and greeting cards, baby bibs, household linens and even some jewelry items.

I am able to operate a sewing machine with my chin and enjoy sewing items. For larger sewn items, I rely on my staff–my contributions to these items being my art that is applied to them.

I sell my art and the items my art is applied to through my own business.

Sandra Sicard

I was born in Grand Rapids, raised in Costa Mesa, Calif., and moved with my family back to Grand Rapids just in time for my senior year of high school at Northview. After high school, while working as a receptionist/secretary, I got my first job singing which led to more. I got a spot with Jerry Reed on the Lowell Showboat, and some memorable “Grand Ole Opry” road trips, as well as 10 years at the Homestead’s Gun Room.

I married the man of my dreams in 1974 and with God’s blessings had two beautiful daughters. In 1990 during surgery, I suffered one of those rare strokes that can happen. It left me totally paralyzed on my left side. While in the hospital, I spent a lot of time here at Mary Free Bed regaining my mobility. My husband, John, encouraged me to renew my interest in calligraphy, which I learned from my grandfather, as therapy against depression. Just recently I started to learn to paint which is something I’ve always wanted to do! With the skill of my teacher, Mo Murphy, and the encouragement of my family, classmates and friends, I’ve finally gone from fear of failure to “Wow! Did I do that?”

P.S. And I’m still singing!

Phillip M. Siegel, Sr.

Phil was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., the second oldest son in a family of 8. At 3 years old he contracted infantile paralysis (polio) which paralyzed his right side. After a hospital stay of 6 months, he was able to return home. A number of operations were required through the years and the last one being a total hip replacement. At the present time he is able to get around with the aid of a cane.

A self-taught artist with an awareness of nature and the beauty of Michigan’s out-of-doors is reflected in many of his drawings today. Phil did not start working on fulfilling his dream of being an artist until after he was 30 years old. His subject-matter ranges from Michigan’s old barns, lighthouses, scenic landscape to lovable birds and animals that we see every day, with a real interest and concern for the endangered wildlife of our world.

As a graphic artist for a number of years, pen and ink drawings became a natural way for him to express his love for animals and the things around him.

Phil’s talent as an artist is a God-given gift. Through his artwork, Phil expresses his feelings and his love for God’s wonderful creations.

Cathy Searing (Stehouwer)

I was born with a congenital birth defect (no arm below the elbow on my left side) which has provided many challenges, but finding my own way to do things has allowed me to lead a very normal life. I’ve had a supportive family, both now and when I was growing up.

I have a degree in graphic design from Kendall College of Art and Design and have been employed at Spartan Stores Graphic Services for more than 20 years. I enjoy the work on a computer at Spartan, but drawing and painting are my first love.

Bradford Sutherland

I was born in Lansing, Mich., where my family of 6 lived in the country on a small hobby farm. My dad worked in the factory and it was the kids’ jobs to gather the eggs and take care of the animals and the vegetable gardens.

In high school, I was on the track team and played baseball. Living in the country without a vehicle meant I had to hitchhike home from school after practices and games.

Rather than being drafted into the Army, I chose to enlist in the Air Force in 1958 where I was placed into Strategic Air Command (SAC). I remained in SAC until 1963. These were the planes that carried the hydrogen bombs, ready to launch them if needed; and my service was during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

While in the service, I sent for my sweetheart back home and we were married in England. We had two daughters, one born in England and the other in the United States. After the service, I worked in Lansing for General Motors, Timekeeper and the US Postal Service.

One year in grade school I asked for a chemistry set for Christmas. Instead, I received an oil paints kit which set off an interest in art. I went to MSU for one year with an intended major in Fine Arts, but then enlisted in the Air Force. I did not again have the opportunity to pursue fine arts in college but have painted for many years, honing my skills in drawing and painting in various media.

Since the fall of 2003, I have resided at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. My wheelchair does not inhibit my love of painting. I am prolific and favor paintings of lighthouses, landscapes and wildlife, particularly those of our own state of Michigan.

David Thinger

I have been disabled since an accident in 1992, when a TBI/head injury caused me to lose my memory and have an uncontrollable seizure disorder. My brain surgery in 1994 unfortunately failed, but left me in a more difficult memory situation. I do feel comfortable with how the University of Michigan hospital is constantly giving me the latest medicines and surgeries. I’ve learned to accept life the way it is and to use my disability as an opportunity to expand my art talent.

I’ve won various art contests, have shown in various galleries and taken many years of various art classes, including oil painting 10 times. I surely hope I will eventually recover and be able to return to work though. Grand Valley Artists have helped me tremendously because working with them has increased my art ability and connections.

My art is being written about by a Harvard neurologist. He has been researching how my medical condition has been with many artists in history, including Leonardo da Vinci. This has already started some clients interested in using my art. I’ve been trying to enter the field of professional illustrator because my art seems to be my only talent not affected by my disability.

In the meantime, I’ve learned to love life the way it is and to realize everyone out there has various difficulties of their own.

Jim Thompson

I worked as a wedding portrait photographer from 1993 until September of 2010. At that time I did retire from any commercial photography and began pursuing the creation of photographs for my viewing pleasure only. Soon, I found my previous love of the black and white image resurfaced, and pretty much that is what I have specialized in since my retirement. My work is all done with a large format film camera, and the images are produced in a conventional darkroom, which gives me traditional archival prints as an end result.

My health problems were created by a fall down my basement steps on May 4 of last year. From what the doctors tell me, I landed on my head with sufficient force to crush some vertebra in my back, as well as some pretty serious brain damage. After spending a week in Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, I was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Within two weeks I was able to continue the rehabilitation as an outpatient at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, to bring me to my current status. I still have pain in my back, limited movement and am only able to be on my feet for a short amount of time. Usually 30-45 minutes is the maximum. Also my brain limitations have recovered to the point that I can reason well, but still have problems with short-term memory and balance.

Joan Brunais Thompson

Joan resides in Caledonia, Mich., at Station Creek, a Porter Hills Community.

On December 12, 1999, Joan was involved in an automobile accident and suffered a closed head injury and a contusion on her spinal cord. She completed her therapy program with Mary Free Bed Hospital, but continues to require medical and therapy programs because of accident-related physical difficulties. In 2003, she was diagnosed with a neuropathy pain disorder, related to those injuries.

Joan has been given a number of opportunities to display her works of art in local art galleries, as well as a northern gallery, along with other artists, who have experienced some of the disabilities, that life will sometimes give.

Joan knows, without a doubt, that she has been greatly blessed by God and her recovery, so far, and is very grateful for His often moment-by-moment provisions. She is so thankful to all who have supported her, and for the opportunity to share that thankfulness with friends and family, through her artistic abilities.

In April 2003, Joan was chosen as the featured artist for the Mary Free Bed 21st Annual Fine Arts Exhibition. Each year of participation becomes a new highlight in her artistic pursuits.

Joan also enjoys writing poetry and short stories. She is now attempting to write and illustrate a youth’s historical novel (“The Telling”) that deals with the tragedies and triumphs of slavery through the late 1880s. The storyline has evolved from the painting that she entered in the MFB Art Exhibition in 2005, titled “Isaiah’s Goat.”

Cheryl Tiesenga

My name is Cheryl Tiesenga. I’m 42 years old.

When I was two years old, I was hit by a car and suffered brain damage. One of the things that has been good therapy for me is art lessons. All of my paintings are done in oils.

I have a wonderful art teacher, Marianne Tanis. She has faithfully guided me for many years. I am very thankful for her teaching and friendship. I also thank God for the abilities I have and His care over me all of these years.

This is just one of the many things that I am capable of doing because I have tried very hard to overcome my disability.