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Parkinson's patient funds art therapy class through selling own art

After being diagnosed with Parkinson's herself, Michelle Beshears decided to create a class for others like herself to find healing and peace through art.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Art therapy is used to help with a slew of mental health problems and thanks to Michelle Beshears and The Gallery on Garrison in Fort Smith, patients with Parkinson's disease have an outlet for their creativity and a space to clear their minds through art.

After Beshears was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease in 2020 she recalls falling into depression and using art as a way to cope with this and her new diagnosis. After finding fellowship in a fitness class, Beshears sold some of the paintings she had worked on to be able to fund a class where Parkinson's patients could "show their ability instead of their disability," Beshears said.

Through this effort, Beshears was able to raise enough funds to afford the cost of two hours of art therapy a month for four months for 16 patients at $25 a class each. While they now expect to get funding to continue the program after the summer from the Parkinson's Foundation, the group is still accepting donations by contacting The Gallery on Garrison, where classes are expected to be held the last Wednesday of every month through July. 

The first class, held in April, guided attendants through a painting but Beshears says this is not the only medium they will be using. 

According to a study on comorbidities of depression and Parkinson's disease, almost 35% of patients with Parkinson's experience depression. This class aims not only to provide patients with a space to explore their creativity and clear their mind but it also helps them with the characteristic tremors caused by the disease to subside through focusing on their artistic endeavors. 

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