The Norman Transcript

March 14, 2014

Open studio offers healing for artists

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — He thinks it sounds a little crazy, but Mark Dvorak still holds this truth: Art changed his life.

For a little over a year Dvorak, 52-year-old Norman resident, has been attending the Norman Firehouse Art Center’s Healing Studio, an open format studio for individuals with varying degrees of cognitive, physical and learning disabilities to participate in art.

“It’s made things more bearable,” he said. “Art and music is a good way to get away and have a good time and not worry about your problems. I know everyone has their problems, I feel bad about that. It’s helped me quite a bit since I’ve been going. I look forward to it on Fridays. It’s unbelievable. It’s something to really look forward to.”

Dvorak will be exhibiting his work along with his classmates during a Healing Studio exhibit at the Firehouse, 444 S. Flood Ave., through March 29. An opening reception is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. March 14.

The free program is offered 50 weeks a year, with each session lasting two hours long. Teacher Jane Lawson leads students through prepared art activities that are designed to be adjusted to the various needs of different students.

FAC Executive Director Douglas Shaw Elder said students are able to develop a sense of community and foster creative expression during open studio times.

“Each of them, regardless, has a certain style of mark-making. They have good days, they have bad days. Even Picasso said Picasso can’t be Picasso at times, so that is a part of every day life — the more you realize we do have ups and downs at all levels. The importance is coming together,” he said.

Dvorak said he’s done a little bit of everything during class time, including painting and working with pencils and colored pencils. And though the projects are not technically difficult, he said they are fulfilling and inspire him to do more. In fact, Dvorak said he now creates art at home. He calls his home work his “independent living collection.”

Of course, Dvorak said he has enjoyed making friends during the classes.

“I love it. It’s great socialization,” he said. “Ms. Lawson, if you have a question about how to do something she has great advice. I don’t really have an artist background but I’ve learned so much. It’s great for all of us to get together.”

Elder said FAC exhibits Healing Studio work every year. The goal with the annual exhibit is for artists to feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as help create a dialogue between the artists and their viewers.

“Somebody is saying something and it’s up to us to come in and listen,” Elder said on why the public should come to this exhibit. “That’s the whole viewing experience.”

For Dvorak, exhibiting his work fills him with a sense of pride.

“Oh, man, I think it’s wonderful. I am thrilled to death just to have the Firehouse show some of my stuff. It’s unbelievable. That in itself to me, for them to say bring your stuff on to show it — that’s cool,” he said. “I don’t think they say it to everybody. They must like some of the things I do. I just love to create. It’s great inspiration.”

For anyone contemplating joining the Healing Studio class, Dvorak said he knows it can make a difference for them, too.

“It’s unfortunate that some people are not positive and sometimes I’m not positive all the time. Crud, I get my down moments — everybody does,” he said. “But heck, it’s not the way to be. I hate having to feel down sometimes but sometimes I do. But art seems to really help. It helps me forget my problems a little bit.”

For more information on FAC and the Healing Studio visit or call 405-329-4523.

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