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Parkinson's disease patients have found art classes conducted by Vickie McCrary and Shirley Tyldesley at Glancy Rehabilitation Center in Duluth to be physically, emotionally and socially beneficial.

Vickie McCrary has been active in the Atlanta and Gwinnett visual arts scene for many years. When she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she knew she could make a difference in the lives of fellow Parkinson’s patients.

McCrary found that art releases her from some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, both emotional and physical. She wanted to share this concept with others through special art classes.

McCrary reached out to Gwinnett Medical Center, and soon she and her friend Shirley Tyldesley were teaching these special classes, which are no cost to participants.

“Vickie and I simply represent ourselves — local artists who want to share our love for art with others through volunteerism,” Tyldesley said.

Three classes have been held so far at Gwinnett Medical Center’s Glancy Rehabilitation Center at 3215 McClure Bridge Road in Duluth.

Class sizes range from four to 10 people plus nurses and caretakers. Activities were developed by McCrary and Tyldesley, although supplies have been an issue.

“The hospital was able to provide a small budget for art supplies,” Tyldesley said. “Vickie has reached out to a friend, Jim Graff, the owner of American Elevator, who graciously provided us with money to purchase needed art materials. However, contributions for supplies are appreciated.”

The benefits to Parkinson’s patients have been evident.

“Therapy through art benefits individuals with Parkinson’s by addressing their physical, psychological and social needs,” Tyldesley said. “Art activities improve tremor experienced by those with Parkinson’s. Because most people find art relaxing, the stress and fatigue normally increasing the tremor activity is reduced, leading to a reduction in tremor activity.

“Some people with Parkinson’s experience freezing — an inability to move. Art activities require you to incorporate new movement patterns into your routine. There is less ‘autopilot’ and more exciting new moves,” Tyldesley said. “Freezing becomes less of a problem. Folks with Parkinson’s can also have impaired speech. Thoughts and feelings become harder to express, leading to isolation. Working with art encourages self-expression through a new avenue.”

Also, because people with any type of condition can experience depression and isolation, art can create a new community and emotional support to help reduce these feelings.

“Classes start with social time and refreshments. The art activity is introduced, and then we jump into it, hands in the art,” said Tyldesley. “Depending on drying time, patients can get their artwork back in one to two weeks. During that time, Vickie and I mat or varnish the work, depending on the medium used for the class.”

Although the classes are primarily for Parkinson’s patients, McCrary and Tyldesley have also worked with a Stroke Recovery Support Group.

“We are open to supporting any condition requesting our services,” Tyldesley said. “Because we have established an awareness in the medical community, we conduct classes based on request. It only takes a call from the hospital or organization to get us moving.”

Inquiries can be made at 404-435-4040.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@ mindspring.com.

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