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MS art show celebrates creativity, perseverance

The show Wednesday evening at Turnstone features works by people with multiple sclerosis.

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Celebrating life and art

WHAT: The first MS Art Show will feature art work created by 13 people with multiple sclerosis. Several of the artists also will participate in a panel discussion about how art has impacted their lives and living with MS. Afterward, Dr. Jimmy Yen, lead researcher at the IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne, will give a short presentation. Light refreshments will be served.

WHEN: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday; panel discussion by artists at 5:45 p.m.

WHERE: Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone, 3320 N. Clinton St.

COST: Free admission. RSVPs are encouraged through today by contacting Jennifer Boen, director of the Anna Yoder MS Fund, at 481-0577 or jboen@iu.edu.

Pamala Ramsey used to make her living with her camera. Now the camera has become a companion that helps her through daily challenges.

Michelle Fansler had never painted before, but her landscapes now let her soar beyond the disease that has left her paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“It’s relaxing,” Fansler said of her painting, which she does by holding a brush in her mouth. “It gets me to think about other things than my problems.”

Both women will have examples of their work in the first MS Art Show from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone, 3320 N. Clinton St. The show, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Anna Yoder MS Fund at Indiana University School of Medicine-Fort Wayne and by Turnstone.

The show features art work by 13 people with MS, or multiple sclerosis. The unpredictable and often disabling disease impacts the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body, it said on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website, www.nationalmssociety.org.

People attending the show can meet and talk with the artists. At 5:45 p.m., several artists also will take part in a panel discussion about how art has improved their lives and helped them live with MS.

Ramsey and Fansler both participate in the art group at Turnstone, which is open to people with disabilities.

For Ramsey, 64, of New Haven, still getting to enjoy photography has been a gift from God.

She and her late former husband started the Studio Art photography studio while she was a young woman. She estimates she photographed more than 500 weddings and took a multitude of high school senior graduation portraits and nursery school student portraits.

She was diagnosed with MS at age 34. That news and a series of other events hit her hard.

The disease progressed quickly, forcing her to use a cane, then a quad cane and then a walker. She now uses a power wheelchair.

Ramsey had to quit working as a photographer because she couldn’t focus the camera. Her husband left her, and she then had to sell the farm and photo studio, which was at the farm, because she no longer could climb stairs.

She plunged into a deep depression, she said. She credits God for bringing her out of it, saying he continues to make it possible for her to take photos. Her work includes amazingly detailed close-ups of plants, eye-catching landscape images and cute portraits of cats.

While her left hand to shakes too much to hold a camera, her right hand remains steady, she said. She slips the camera’s shoulder strap over her head and then holds the camera far enough in front of her that the strap becomes taut and functions as a brace for holding it while she shoots a photo. Digital camera technology also has made it easier for her to take photos.

Ramsey likes to bring her camera wherever she goes. She takes many of her photos in her own garden and around her neighborhood.

“It’s his artwork, not mine,” she said, giving God the credit. “I just happen to be there to capture it.”

Ramsey hesitates to say art has helped her with her MS, but taking photos has had an impact: “It makes me feel good I can still do it,” she said.

Fansler, 46, of Kendallville, was age 33 when she was diagnosed with an MS-spectrum disease.

She had enjoyed doing some crafts, such as ceramics, before her diagnosis, she said. But she had no interest in painting or art.

“I couldn’t draw a stick figure,” she joked.

She got involved in the art group at Turnstone and now has been painting nearly 10 years.

“They are great at making adaptations so you can do things here,” she said.

The inspirations for the landscape images she paints come from looking through photos in books and magazines, Fansler said. Because she comes to art group once a week and works at painting for only about a hour to 90 minutes per visit, her paintings take weeks or months to complete.

Fansler hopes her art inspires people to overcome their own challenges.

“I think people should learn to roll with the punches life gives you,” she said. “Don’t give up. Keep pushing yourself.”

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