Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital takes its participation with ArtPrize seriously. For the third year running, Mary Free Bed has sought artists with ties to the hospital’s mission of restoring hope and freedom. As with the previous two years, the pairing of artist and venue had to be just right.
The Connection: Community Inclusive Recreation and the ETC ARTS Studio
Laura Demond and William Baxter, two artists from Community Inclusive Recreation (CIR) and the ETC ARTS Studio in Battle Creek, have contributed to a sculpture for this year’s ArtPrize. The contest, now in its third year, is the radically open art competition held in downtown Grand Rapids.
CIR promotes opportunities and personal growth for people of all abilities in Calhoun County through relationships, advocacy, and acceptance. ETC ARTS Studio, part of CIR, comprises 3 studios, gallery space, and a sculpture garden. The studio’s vision is to help community members make and sell quality art and art-based products in a professional studio environment where people of all abilities can be successful creative entrepreneurs.
“Mary Free Bed is a great to tie in to our mission,” Michelle Sears, ETC ARTS Studio director, said. “The partnership is really a connection of inclusion. Both the hospital and CIR provide people with the services they need to live healthy lifestyles and to recover from any traumatic things that they are born with or that come up later in life.”
“Being able to enter two of our participants into this year’s competition is a very positive outcome from the programs we offer to people in our community,” says Michelle. “We’re excited to be a part of this nationwide phenomenon and tell our organization’s and artists’ stories through art.”
Mary Free Bed was pleased when CIR showed interest in the hospital as a venue. Lyndsie Post, marketing specialist and ArtPrize event manager at Mary Free Bed, echoes Michelle Sears’ views on the connection.
“Community Inclusive Recreation is a great fit with Mary Free Bed,” Lyndsie said. “The organization really is inclusive to people of all abilities and they truly believe that anyone can do anything. It’s what we live and breathe here at Mary Free Bed.”
Inspiration for Let Your Dreams Take Flight
The foundation of the ArtPrize sculpture, entitled Let Your Dreams Take Flight, was donated to the ETC ARTS Studio by Branden Cavinder in memory of his sister, the late artist Brandy Cavinder. Brandy’s involvement with CIR and the ETC ARTS Studio has been described as turning her into a butterfly.
“We all have our dreams,” Laura Demond, one of the two artists who worked on the sculpture, said. “Brandy made some of her dreams take shape in the silk studio at the ETC ARTS Studio. The way she moved when she was happy made me think of a butterfly fluttering around us. I painted this butterfly with the help of William Baxter in memory of my friend Brandy Cavinder.”
“Brandy was a participant at the studio, but then became a mentor and also an instructor,” said Michelle. “She impacted a lot of lives here. Everyone still talks about her. Her brother is a welder and he has a soft spot for CIR because of all the great things that we helped Brandy with. In his experimentation, he designed the piece because he always thought that CIR helped turn Brandy into a butterfly.”
“A lot of us at Mary Free Bed think the sculpture will resonate well with many of the patients here,” said Lyndsie. “The piece expresses hope and creativity. It says that things are possible for people of all abilities.”
Laura Demond, 62, has struggled with her health since her teen years. First, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, then with spina bifida occulta (incomplete development of the spinal cord). A bulging disk and diabetes cause problems with walking and standing. In spite of her health issues, Laura continues to give to her community through her participation with CIR.
The Battle Creek native has always loved art and began creating art in high school. When Laura first became involved with CIR it was to participate in bowling, golf, and other sports. But the art soon followed. First she was a student at CIR then went on to become a mentor for others involved with the studio. Now Laura is on staff.
Laura collaborated with William Baxter on the ArtPrize sculpture. Fairly new to CIR, William has participated in the organization’s art classes. About a year ago, William walked into the studio and talked to staff about CIR’s offerings. And so began William’s association with CIR.
William says that art is his life; if he had his way, he’d do art all day long, every day. He started drawing at 14. William admires airbrush painting, though that isn’t the medium he works in – he likes to use color pencils for his pieces. It didn’t take long to convince William to work on the ArtPrize sculpture as he thought working on the butterfly was a great opportunity.
ArtPrize at Mary Free Bed
You can view Let Your Dreams Take Flight at Mary Free Bed, near the hospital’s Therapath (just east of the main entrance) beginning September 16. To vote for Laura and William’s sculpture you’ll need to register with ArtPrize; you must register in person. The nearest place to Mary Free Bed to register is at the Diocese of Grand Rapids Cathedral Square. You can text your vote to ID 56721.
ArtPrize is part arts festival, part social experiment. Designed as a very different art competition, the goal is for the general public and artists to collide, exchange ideas and come away changed.