Believe Gallery 

To empower and promote artist’s ABILITY

“My cross path – I grow, & I grow, & I grow…stalk is symbolic of me in rehab…” Artist Nikki Booth

Believe Gallery is dedicated to Nikki Booth, and Christine Schneider, as a legacy of compassion, love, & inclusion; That their lesson of art as a modality in communication and rehabilitation may endure.

 

“Our story is about two non-artists who began drawing together.  Our paths crossed in East Lansing, Michigan. Nikki was recovering from a stroke that profoundly affected her ability to communicate. She had not drawn since childhood and was not at all convinced that she wanted to give art a try.   I was one of her speech language pathologists. I, too, had been resistant to picking up a paintbrush just three years earlier. But on my daughter’s encouragement I began painting images from my wartime experiences. Having served in Vietnam as an Army Nurse 30 years earlier, the memories flowed from the tip of my paintbrush.   Art, for me, was both freeing and healing.   Sometimes in life, paths cross in unexpected ways. Nikki needed a way to communicate, and art had become a way for me to express what I was unable to put into words.  What are the odds that we would find each other in the way we did?   To those facing challenges, to your caregivers, families, and friends, remember that you are not defined by your disability.  You are so much more than that.   Nikki and I encourage you to find your own passion, your own way of communicating with the world. Perhaps you can best express your zeal through writing, dance, music, photography, clay or paint. You will never know if you don’t try.”   

Chris Schneider, 2009, “You Kept Thinking I was Special.”  Used with permission.

 

In the years 2004 - 2009 Nikki and Chris provided more than 30 presentations to organizations including the Lansing Area Aphasia Support Group, Michigan Speech and Hearing Association, Brian Injury Association of Michigan, University of Michigan Aphasia Program, and keynote presentation at the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association. Their presentations provided education and inspiration to survivors of stroke and brain injury, their families, and professionals.

 

Nikki Booth was a respected accounts manager in the manufacturing industry.  In addition to her successful career, she was an avid golfer, enjoyed boating, and was a talented pianist.  On August 5, 2003 Nikki had a stroke that resulted in aphasia (difficulty communicating). Nikki died March 18, 2016 the result of a heart disease.  “Nikki was a fighter. She wasn’t going to be licked by a stroke. Nikki was generous and loving; always giving without being asked and forgiving without malice,” as remembered by and survived by her mother Helen.  She is also survived by her brother Mike, sister Danni, and family, and community of friends. Nikki painted primarily with watercolors and acrylics. We are humbled and grateful for the gift of her artwork from Helen Booth, both as the debut artist, and the dedication of Believe.

 

Chris Schneider served as an Army Nurse at the 95th Evacuation Hospital, Da Nang Vietnam (June 1970-June 1971).   Chris continued to serve as an advocate in volunteer roles that supported Veterans.  After raising her daughter and son, Chris pursued a second career and became a speech-language pathologist.   Chris died December 1, 2009 from myeloblastic leukemia related to radiation exposure and agent orange connected to her service in Vietnam.  A true Hero, Chis was a Bronze Star recipient for her heroic service and was interned on Flag Day 2010 in Arlington National Cemetery. Chris is survived by her husband Tom, daughter Karli and family, son Tommy and family, her Mother, siblings, extended family, and community of friends.  This dedication to Chris is a small token of appreciation to honor her sacrifice, and the legacy Chris has left in the hearts and minds of many.

 

“Nikki came to me as a referral from Nikki’s wonderful speech pathologist, Chris Schneider.  I had the privilege of working with Nikki and her mom Helen for over ten years. Nikki not only became part of my Art from the Heart program, she and her mom became part of my heart --her clinical support team, my dear friends.  Nikki’s early paintings conveyed the frustration and sadness she felt after her stroke as she struggled to find her words.  With encouragement from Chris, Nikki joined my class of kind and supportive artists who faced their own challenges. They, more than most, understood her journey.  As her spirit began to heal, Nikki’s paintings became lighter. Her compositions became butterflies, flowers and beautiful.  Art was transformative. Painting had become her voice.” 

Sue McGuire, Teaching Artist

 

“I had the pleasure of working with Nikki and Chris by providing encouragement to them both to share their story with others (although they referred to me ‘a foot in their backs’). What started as an informal in-service with a few people spiraled into 30+ presentations including an invited keynote to an audience of 700. We kid that I should have quit my day job to become their agent and roadie!

Their art is magical and served as conduit to tell their story. I believe we are the stories we tell. Stories are our identity. Nikki and Chris were able to re-construct who they were through the telling and re-telling of their story. This personal narrative allowed Nikki to develop a new sense of who she was post-stroke and with aphasia. What they did, this magic, is highly therapeutic and should be bottled for distribution! While this isn’t possible, Nikki and Chris have inspired my work as a clinician and researcher, exploring the co-construction of personal narratives to support identity re-construction in persons with aphasia.”

Katie Strong, Assistant Professor, Speech-Language Pathologist

 

 

Nikki and Chris taught me an appreciation of art in a depth I had not experienced, to value the science of how different modalities may be used to facilitate rehabilitation, and the art of therapeutic use of self, including their lesson of compassion, love, and inclusion.   

Like the mom-and-pop coffee shops and cafes that provide an opportunity for local artists to exhibit and sell their art, it’s been my goal for some time to provide such a space for artists within the disability community.   During Memorial Day weekend, while out on run (where I think, pray, meditate) I had an experience that I have come to refer to as a conversation with Nikki and Chris.  Someone called it the Holy Spirit, someone called it a “God wink,” someone referred to it as my active 3rd eye, another as said a morphic field.  I don’t know, but it was a clear thought, like a message, to dedicate this to Nikki and Chris, and to ask Helen to borrow Nikki’s art as the debut artist, and it brought me to tears running alone on a country road. A couple of days after the holiday weekend I sent a brief text message to Katie Strong, friend and colleague, but someone I’d not had communication with in a few years. Katie’s reply to my inquiring if she could help me to connect with Helen Booth, “Really this is freaky that you both reached out today. I can hear Nikki laughing.” Helen had just called Katie that day to ask for Katie’s input on how to distribute Nikki’s art.   As this project progressed, and as I searched for the right name for this space, I found a hand-written inscription from Chris, signed by both Nikki and Chris, that stated “Thank you for believing in us.”   Chris named the gallery space for me.

I am grateful for the kindness and generosity of Helen Booth, in sharing Nikki’s art. I am humbled to be the guardian of her art, and to be able to share Nikki’s art and her story in my office.  I am grateful for both Helen Booth’s and Tom Schneider’s support to honor Nikki and Chris.  Nikki and Chris are the inspiration for this gallery space; it is a small token to honor their memory with this dedication.

 

Believe Gallery looks forward to partnering with the community to provide gallery space to empower and promote artist’s ABILITY.

                            

Believe Gallery’s logo is an Irish Primrose.  The Irish Primrose was used as a medicinal plant for Healing, and is a symbol of Inspiration, Belonging and Nurturing, as well as Good Luck and Prosperity.

 

 

 

Michael Patrick O’Connor, July 2018

 

 

 

Believe Gallery’s logo is an Irish Primrose.  The Irish Primrose was used as a medicinal plant for Healing, and is a symbol of Inspiration, Belonging and Nurturing, as well as Good Luck and Prosperity.

517-881-1302 michael@oconnorot.com

The Celtic Maze pattern symbolizes the journey of life and the path of experience, & learning.  It symbolizes that there are twists, and turns, the challenges and obstacles in life, but that there are always open doors.

O’Connor Occupational Therapy Opens Doors to opportunities for individuals to live safely and independently in their community through RehabilitationEducation, and Adaptation.

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