Exploring life, death through art: Hospice and arts council team up in Homer

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

At first glance, the Homer Council on the Arts and Hospice of Homer might seem as apart in their missions as their offices at either end of Pioneer Avenue and East End Road. HCOA offers programs in the visual, performing and literary arts. Hospice of Homer helps people with terminal diseases facing the end of life.

Photo By Michael Armstrong
Photo By Michael Armstrong
"Memories of Bell Tour," a watercolor by Cheri Govertsen-Greer, with Ted Reed's poem, is one of the works in "Loss and Remembrance," the November show at the Homer Council on the Arts.

A collaboration next month for National Hospice Month brings those two organizations together. Also joining them is Pier One Theatre, which sponsors a performance of "Tuesdays With Morrie," presented in Homer by Cyrano's Theater Company of Anchorage. The connection between arts and hospice isn't that far a stretch.

"Hospice focuses on quality of life. The arts is about enhancing and enriching life," said Darlene Hilderbrand, executive director of Hospice of Homer.

For its monthly show, HCOA and hospice offer "Loss and Remembrance: A Collaborative Exploration of Grief through the Arts," opening with a First Friday reception from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow. Hospice offers bereavement group meetings and a remembrance circle at HCOA next month.

HCOA's youth theater group, Theater Shakes, performs William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," at 7 p.m. Nov. 20, with a discussion following on the issue of teenage suicide. Admission is $10 general and $5 for youth and HCOA, Hospice of Homer and Pier One Theatre members.

Cyrano's actors Dick Reichman as Morrie and Patrick Killoran as Mitch perform "Tuesdays With Morrie," Jeffery Hatcher's play based on Mitch Albom's book about visiting with a friend dying of ALS. Shows are 7 p.m. Nov. 27 and 2 p.m. Nov. 28 at HCOA. Admission is $15 general, $10 HCOA, Hospice of Homer and Pier One Theatre members, $5 youth.

The show looks at the role of art in dealing with death and dying. For example, a watercolor painting by Cheri Govertsen-Greer, "Memories of Bell Tour," was submitted by Carrie Reed with a poem her son, Ted Reed, wrote about Bell Tour, a horse he rode in Olympic trials with the U.S. Equestrian Team. Bell Tour broke his leg and died, which forced Ted Reed to deal with loss and grief.

"The painting and poem eulogize this time of his great loss and shattered dreams," Carrie Reed wrote in her description of the works.

Art can help people understand grief and loss, Hilderbrand said. "It helps them through their grieving process. Art holds up these universal life experiences that can help us integrate what's going on in our lives."

"It's really about the power of art as a healing mechanism," Edgerly added. "A healing force of whatever source of art that has helped someone -- helping them to honor and remember their loved one. That's what we're looking for."

The collaboration came about through providence. Early last month, HCOA and Hospice of Homer joined together in a fundraiser. Both organizations had events scheduled for the same weekend.

"We said, that's not going to work. Let's do it together," Edgerly said.

The two organizations joined together for a benefit concert performed by Tamba Hadzi Marimba. That got them thinking about further collaborations.

"Because November was coming up with National Hospice month, we decided to pull it together," Edgerly said.

At the same time, Dick Reichman of Cyrano's had been talking to Pier One Theatre about bringing "Tuesdays With Morrie" to Homer, said Barb Petersen of Pier One. Offering the two-man play in November seemed like a good time to do it.

"We said, 'There are a lot of reasons this is a good time to come and do this,'" Petersen said. "It sounds like it's a compelling show."

"It's just a beautiful story of this man's wisdom as he's facing mortality," Edgerly said. "His message is you don't really know how to live until you learn to die."

Collaborations like this fit in with HCOA's goal of trying to involve different people in the experience of art, she said.

"What happens when you spread out like that, you're reaching more people," she said. "You're opening up people's awareness of where art is in their lives, how they're already interfacing with art."

"I hope we have more collaborations," Hilderbrand said. "You might think they were an odd pair, but they really aren't."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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