Changing Identities: A Story of Traumatic Injury and Art
By Daniel Labbato
Narrated by Meryl Streep
Picture Theory Productions
Each year, approximately 1.5 million people have their lives suddenly and irrevocably changed by traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries or stroke. Pat Gardner, a New York Banker, was driving to work when she was hit by another car. The accident left her apparently uninjured. The police who responded to the accident put her on a commuter train to the city, but Pat didn’t know who she was or where she was going, and wandered around Penn Station for hours before finally asking for help. While current therapies can leave many people like Pat unable to function, or institutionalized indefinitely, this documentary explores a powerful alternative.
In 1999, retired artist Bill Richards founded The Art Studio at the Northeast Center for Special Care, in upstate New York. It was modeled on a similar program he had created for injured young adults in Harlem. Because Richards believes every person has the ability to become an artist, he doesn't consider the participants as “patients” or "students," nor does he suggest themes, give assignments, teach technique, or offer criticism. The unconventional studio is open all day, allowing patients to come and go as they please. The goal is not art as therapy, but the creation of art for its own sake, and as a means for the artists to rediscover who they are or forge new identities. In addition to Pat, they include: Erich Miethner, a musician who became a quadriplegic after a freak accident; he works with the paint brush held in his mouth; Tusay, a carpenter and poet before his debilitating stroke; and Jurgen Blank, who was stricken by brain tumors as a result of agent-orange exposure.
Today Pat has become an accomplished painter, and takes particular pride in the fact that it is not something she had ever done or even thought of doing before. Changing Identities documents the metamorphosis of a number of Art Studio “neighbors” like Pat, as they redefine who they are through this unique studio art program, and begin to see themselves not as people with disabilities but as artists.
Purchase $229 DVD
Order No. QA-476
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-902-9
"Organizations who serve people with disabilities that want to establish an art program would find this useful to help them set guidelines and to explain the value of the program. Recommended." Educational Media Reviews Online
Awards & Conference Screenings
Picture This... Disability Film Festival
Western Psychological Association
National Health Information, Merit Award
International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA)
WorldFest Houston Film Festival, Bronze Award
Stroke Recovery: A comprehensive resource intended to aid stroke survivors and their caregivers during the ongoing recovery process.
Outsider: Judith Scott has Down syndrome, is deaf, and does not speak. Yet after 35 years of institutionalization, with the help of a sister who never gave up on her, she emerged to create a series of sculptures that have fascinated and mystified art experts and collectors around the world.
Key Changes: A profile of a successful and talented jazz singer who is also a wheelchair activist and advocate for disability rights.
Raymond's Portrait: This video introduces viewers to a remarkable young man born with Down syndrome and it is a powerful example of what can happen when a child is encouraged to develop to his full potential, regardless of others perceptions about his abilities. DVD version has both closed-captions and audio description.
We Are PHAMALy: Follows cast members of a musical theater group for people with sensory and mobility disabilities, from auditions to their remarkable opening night performance of Once Upon a Mattress.
The Healing Arts: New Pathways to Health: This compelling and evocative documentary profiles a unique program which uses the arts in an innovative treatment approach for people living with chronic, disabling physical and emotional challenges. It integrates technology, writing, music, theater, dance, and other arts into patient care, staff training, and wellness programs.
White Cane and Wheels: Carmen and Steve once dreamed of lives on stage and screen, but their plans were cut short by her blindness and his muscular dystrophy. This program is a funny and touching exploration of a relationship filled with frustration, but held together with patience, stubbornness, forgiveness and love.
Multiple: For six years, actor and director Alison Peebles has been keeping a secret: she has multiple sclerosis. Now, in the midst of working on an important TV series, she finds she can no longer hide her symptoms. She's afraid this revelation may destroy her career and she'll also have to kiss goodbye to her sexy, high-heeled shoes.
Phoenix Dance: Renowned dancer Homer Avila lost his right leg and most of his hip to cancer. Following the creation of a pas de deux choreographed by Alonzo King, Phoenix Dance takes us on a journey of transformation and healing, challenging our expectations of what it means to be "disabled."
To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website