Art students create with area cancer patients
Nov. 11, 2014
Fran Griffin of LaGrange loves art therapy classes at West Georgia Health. She
is a breast cancer survivor, and she said she finds solace and support in the hospital’s
But when she first heard about the fall art project that was planned, she wasn’t
“They told us we were going to be doing pottery at LaGrange College, and would
be making masks,” she said. “Masks? I just wasn’t interested in that.”
But the 76-year-old decided to give it a shot, and she discovered something she
never knew about herself.
“As soon as my hands touched the clay, it was almost like something went through
me,” she said. “It just drew me in. I started out sitting down, but the next thing
I knew, I was standing up and I was all in it. I just loved it. We are so grateful
to the college for this opportunity.”
Tim Taunton, Professor of Ceramics and Sculpture, said this wasn’t the first time
the Art Department has hosted a group of cancer survivors.
Art students create with area cancer patients “We had some patients a few years
ago who came as a result of work done by Amber Dow, a former student,” he said.
“When we were approached about doing it again, I knew it was something our students
Taunton, who also teaches sculpture and 3-D design, found three young artists
who were willing to work with the patients.
“I offered the space, clay and firing,” he said. “The students took it from there.”
Every Friday for three weeks, Brenna Richardson, Julia Copes and Kortney Jennings
showed four cancer patients how to work the clay, how to mold it and how to make
it their own. They said the sessions became just as meaningful for them as they
were for the older women.
“The process was much more important than the final product,” Kortney said. “There
were no boundaries, so they had free rein in making their pieces. I enjoyed seeing
the different masks and hearing the thought processes behind each one. I got to
know a little bit about each one of them in the few sessions we had, and we all
Mary Ann Hodnett coordinates the art activities for West Georgia Health, and she
is convinced the projects help patients deal with their disease – and the emotions
that come with it.
“Some people just want to go through the treatment, get it done and then go on
as if cancer didn’t even exist,” she said. “But there are others who want and need
our support. We try to provide patients a safe place to be themselves and a way
to deal with all their emotions.”
Sheila Hornsby said her mask did just that.
“As soon as they told us what we were going to do, I immediately thought of that
song, ‘Tears of a Clown,’ ” she said. “Clowns make me cry because their happy faces
hide their tears.”
Hornsby said the loss of her hair during treatment was the hardest thing for her,
and she wanted to reflect that in her work.
“I actually started out making the top of the mask bald,” she said. “But after
Kortney showed me how to do the hair, I kind of got carried away. So now my mask,
with its tears, also has a full head of hair.”
Cancer survivors Nellie Gadson and Mary Ellen Bray participated in the project,
Professor Taunton said he hopes the college will be able to offer more art opportunities
in the future.
“It doesn’t have to be just clay,” he said. “It can be other 2-D media, such as
photography, painting or drawing. It just depends on student interest and available
Meanwhile, Griffin is ready and waiting.
“The students were so wonderful and patient with us,” she said. “We learned so
much from them in just that short time. I’m a walking example of the power of art,
and I can’t wait to do something with clay again. Who knows, I might even take