Taking art on the road

Bert Caswell and Holly Wherry (Submitted)

Bert Caswell and Holly Wherry (Submitted)

By Marcie Klomp
Holly Wherry, daughter of Keith and Mary Wherry of Cresco, is combining five of her passions—art, art therapy, teaching, bicycling and travel—as she and boyfriend Bert Caswell try to spread the word one piece of art at a time

The couple plans to take their art on the road. Starting at Wherry’s birthplace, Lime Springs, and ending at Caswell’s birthplace, New Orleans, and everywhere in between. They are building an art cart that will hold all of their supplies. It will attach to one of their bikes and away they will go!

They have a few places they will visit for sure, such as colleges to explain art therapy as a career. But they are most excited about setting up their cart and doing art in small towns all along the Mississippi River.

Their journey starts in Lime Springs during Sweet Corn Days, when the pair will set up in Brown Park on Saturday, from 1-3, to show young and old how fun and therapeutic doing art can be. They are also hoping to do some art locally while readying for their over 2,000-mile trip. Individuals get to keep their masterpieces.

They want to spread the word about how healing and beneficial art can be for everyone—any age, any background, any economic status.

The couple met at the Art Institute of Chicago, and both graduated in 2007 with a Masters Degree in Art Therapy. Wherry explained, “Art therapy is a mental health profession like counseling. Instead of using words, you can use art to promote the healing process. It can be used with adults or children, and it works well with those who have experienced trauma.”

Many who are hurting say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” They don’t have to. They can communicate through art, be it clay, painting, collage, found objects (trash), etc.

The found objects art is used a lot with the homeless, since it doesn’t cost any money and there is an abundance of throw-away items.
Wherry observed the VA (Veterans Affairs) employs a lot of art therapists. She has also worked in jails and schools. Caswell works mostly with adults with severe mental illness, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
He added, “People who can’t talk or communicate can use art. Art is another language. Some people communicate through music or drama, and for some it’s art. All of us did art as children, but we lost that. Getting back to art can be fun! It can really make a big difference.”
As with any therapy, all breakthroughs are different through art. Wherry explains, “Sometimes people are resistant for a really long time, and then they’ll do it, and now they make art all the time. Others use of art is more gradual.”
When the couple graduated from the Art Institute, they moved to New Orleans. It was two years after Katrina hit the area, and they wanted to help in any way they could. They stayed for six years.

Wherry then went to India (The country!) for a year, Caswell joined her four months later. Wherry was teaching three organizations (cancer hospital for children, metal health facility for homeless women with mental illness and school for children with special learning needs) how to use art therapy.

“I taught them how to use materials and how to make it expressive. In India, since it is a poor country, we had to be creative in using supplies.”

The couple returned from India at the end of June and visited New Orleans for a week. Then it was on to San Antonio, where Wherry did a couple presentations for the American Art Therapy Association. One was on her research in India and the other on using simple materials. They then joined Wherry’s parents on RAGBRAI, Caswell’s first, which he enjoyed.

About 10 years ago, Wherry joined a couple friends on a bike ride across America. She started in Kentucky and rode all the way to Oregon. Her favorite part was stopping in small towns, like Lime Springs, and just visiting with people. Caswell heard the story and was excited. “I enjoyed that idea,” he smiled. “Go to make art with people. It seemed like a positive idea to me.”

Wherry concluded, “We just want to make art with people.”

The duo are accepting donations for their trip. Most of the donated money will go toward camping fees and art supplies. Donations can be mailed to Wherry, 232 Hawkeye Ct., Cresco, Iowa 52136 or dropped off at Cresco Bicycles.
To learn more about their trip: http://www.arttherapypedalers.com

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