TAE at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland

8 Aug 2018

The Art Experience at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland

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On July 26, 2018, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital received the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Award from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. TAE’s Executive Director, Audra Pieknik, was also invited to share about the studio and its programming, including Create Recovery, our free art therapy group for survivors of stroke and their caregivers, which is sponsored by St. Joe’s.

The president of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Shannon Striebich, accepts the award on behalf of the stroke team.

There were about 50 people in the atrium in attendance. Artwork by Al Pavlish, created during his sessions of Create Recovery, is on display.


The short presentation covered all aspects of the studio, and highlighted the program facilitated by Art Therapist, Roslyn Onickel. The following is a transcript of the presentation:

The Art Experience is a non profit organization started over 20 years ago by art therapists who were committed to improving lives through the arts in the Pontiac community and beyond. We are still committed to that mission.

We are working, community art studio that offers a variety of programming for people of all ages and all abilities. Our programming ranges from general art education classes and one-time workshops, an ongoing $5 drop in Open Studio program for independent creative exploration, supporting artists with special needs in our Artist in Residency program, and ongoing art therapy contract programs with the Pontiac School District, Mandy’s Place at Oakland County’s Children’s Village, and finally, St. Joe’s Create Recovery program.

Imagine a space in an old Albert Kahn building that has 15′ windows, and artwork, supplies, art books and a century old piano hugging the walls. The space allows respite for people who have and have not experienced emotional, physiological or physical trauma; it is a place to begin or continue the healing process outside of a hospital or doctor’s office.

It’s a sense of belonging that helps people feel whole. Having someone listen, understand, validate, and empathize with your experiences creates a sense of safety, which allows for self confidence to increase and with that, the capacity for creativity and playfulness to increase.

In Create Recovery the self selected art projects are a somewhat controlled microcosm of life experience. Participants overcome the fear of being good enough, or caring what other people think. Participants have to come up with creative solutions to art making problems–“Which colors do I mix to get that perfect shade of purple?” or, “Where do I use light vs. dark to make the image on the paper appear closer in the foreground?” It’s an exercise in patience and perseverance–after two hours, participants leave with evidence of their victories and accomplishments. Repeated visits create a collection of victories that participants are proud to share with their loved ones, and to others, like you.

The Art Experience is honored to continue our partnership with St. Joe’s, the survivors of strokes, and their caregivers, and really look forward to its growth.

Thanks again for having me, and I look forward to seeing you in the studio.

Congratulations to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland’s Stroke Team! It really was an honor to see how TAE’s work complements the work of the doctors, nurses, and administrators for the benefit of our community.

TAE Director, Audra Pieknik, was photographed with members of St. Joe’s Neuroscience doctors, nurses, coordinators, volunteers, administrators, and representatives of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

For more information about the award, read this Oakland Press article.


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