Art of Life Cancer Foundation held its annual festival on Sunday at Woodward Park and also held the groundbreaking of the Art of Life Healing Garden.
Dr. Christopher Perkins is an oncologist and founded the Art of Life Program in 2007.
“Nine years ago we came up with the idea to link patients with artists so they can create art to express their journey through their cancer treatment,” Perkins said.
Perkins said that an incredible response came from the patients on how much they enjoyed being with other women who had gone through the same thing.
Perkins said that it is hard for cancer patients to try to explain to somebody who has never had cancer what it is like, and therefore makes it more difficult to bond with others.
“These are women that all had the same problem – cancer – and they all bonded through the creation of this artwork,” Perkins said.
Jenna Kieckhaefer, a criminology professor at Fresno State, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had her artwork featured in the exhibit.
Kieckhaefer said a cancer-survivor friend of hers told her about the event and convinced her to become a part of the event. Kieckhaefer painted of Princess Leia in a series that also included paintings of Rosie the Riveter and Wonder Woman by other artists, all donning pink boxing gloves.
Jenelle Higton, secretary for Art of Life, said that the new healing garden at the park is a place they want people to come celebrate, remember and to find healing.
“You’ll notice that the word cancer is not in the name,” Higton said. “We believe that’s because everyone is impacted some way by cancer or impacted in a way that they need healing too.”
Higton said that she thought it was going to be a gem in the heart of the community and a place where people can leave their mark.
“They can tell their story,” Higton said. “They can come here anytime and know that they’re a part of something so much bigger and have the support of so many people.”
Kieckhaefer said that the Healing Garden and the Art of Life event is great for people of the community, whether they are a cancer survivor or not.
“There’s a lot of meaning everywhere you look here, which is really nice and it’s just really fun,” Kieckhaefer said.
Jody Jo Mize, of Kiss Country 93.7 KSKS-FM, is a breast cancer survivor of over a year and helped emcee some of the event.
Mize said that she is involved with many breast cancer organizations throughout the community and loves Art of Life because it’s an outdoor event.
Mize said that sometimes artwork can be an easier way for people dealing with cancer to express themselves, rather than using words.
“Art can really help you with expressing how you feel when you’re dealing with cancer,” Mize said. “It can help survivors, it can help children and family members explain how they feel.”
The event had face painting, spin art, printmaking, bracelet making, flower pot and ceramic tile painting booths for attendees to take part in.
Perkins said that the event has grown throughout the years and now they have added and unveiled the Healing Garden in Woodward Park.
“Once you get older, you go through things in life and you have two options,” Perkins said. “You can either become a greater person through a difficult time in your life and grow from it, or you can become bitter.”
Perkins said the event encourages people to become better, grow from their experiences and realize that they are not the only ones going through a difficult time in their lives.