When the rest of the world sees a blank canvas, Faith Long sees sea creatures and smells the beach.
At an art-based therapy program at Jessica & Friends Community in York Township, she created her landscape, with a bright blue sky and two palm trees with fans of green. The organization offers programs and residential services for people with autism and intellectual disabilities.
Each Tuesday is a special day for Long, who paints with MnemeTherapist Kim Martin. Martin squirts the paint on the canvas and instructs Long and other clients to dab, streak and splay the paint and create the picture.
"I like that she puts it down, but she shows me how to do it, too," said Long, 44.
When she finished painting, she titled it "Island Palm Trees" and showed off her accomplishment in the community room, where residents smiled and marveled at her work.
"It makes me feel good," Long said.
Left and right: Through MnemeTherapy, pleasurable and stimulating activities like singing and painting are a way to get the right and left sides of the brain communicating to each other, Martin explained.
Before painting with Long, who has mild intellectual disability, she used several exercises as a gauge of her abilities. Martin instructed her to count to 10, tapping each knee with the opposite hand. Then she told Long to count backward, but she hesitated slightly, sometimes mixing up her left and right.
After that, they painted together. Martin instructed and squirted the color on the canvas; Long followed her instructions on brush technique and created the complete landscape.
The therapy enlists the talents of both sides of the brain. The left side is active in logic, which is stimulated through the instruction and communication. The right side, known for being best at creative tasks, is stimulated by the color and image.
After Long finished the painting, Martin re-evaluated her performance on the exercises they did beforehand. Long's eye contact was improved, and she was more fluid in her movements and accuracy.
"It's relaxing," Long said after finishing her painting. "I think it's very therapeutic — same with drawing."
Art Changes Things: Changes in memory and behavior are the goal of Martin's program, Art Changes Things. As a certified MnemeTherapist through the Art Without Boundaries Association in Florida, she's treated individuals of all ages since April 2013. Besides working with clients through organizations like Jessica & Friends and retirement homes, Martin also works with clients in York and Lancaster on an individual basis.
The New Salem resident knows that singing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" with clients can bring them good memories, and as they hold hands and swing them left to right, she notices patterns that guide her in treating their brain disorders.
"You can really tell when the left and right brain are speaking to each other," Martin, 51, said.
She said her minimal goal during sessions is to have an enjoyable 45 minutes with her clients; her second goal is for them to have a sense of accomplishment; and her highest goal is to elicit a change in brain function, either for a few hours or permanently.
One client — a woman she's seen for about a year — can be dozy and apathetic before sessions, Martin said. But after engaging her brain through activities, her attitude shifts, she said.
"Once we get started, she's into it, she's smiling, and she really does get engaged and enjoy it," she said.
How it started: When Martin's son was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a speech impairment. Speech therapy didn't help him; it was occupational therapy that stimulated his senses that finally did.
That's how she knew she wanted to take the opportunity to be a MnemeTherapist.
"Because I've seen it work for Christopher, I knew it would work — and it does," she said.
Martin said she loves what she does because her clients are so loving, and they have fun together.
"It is such a blessing coming in here," she said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through her program, Art Changes Things, Kim Martin is now accepting York- and Lancaster-area clients. Her work with MnemeTherapy treats individuals with brain disorders through art-based activities, such as singing and painting. The therapy stimulates the brain and can improve memory and behavior.
To contact Martin, call 717-516-1763 or email email@example.com.To learn more, visit the Art Changes Things website.
Living Word Community Church in Red Lion will host "Pathway to the Arts," an exhibit of 34 canvas paintings by Kim Martin's clients at Jessica & Friends Community.
A reception will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 30, and artists will share the stories behind their pieces. The artwork will be on display through June.