Art On Wheels, An RVA Non-Profit, Seeks To Heal With Art Instruction
Gerry Koziara paints her clay sculpture. All photos via Art On Wheels
Our intent to make arts education accessible to all ages and abilities was derived from co-founders Andrea and Kevin Orlosky’s personal, transformative and healing experiences in the arts”. Is how Art On Wheels website puts it.
But this is only an eloquent recap of a lifetime of experiences that led to one of the coolest charities around. Art On Wheels, which is now of reputable size and extraordinarily well received, is a charity birthed out of the unique experiences of two people, but seeing how it became the experience of thousands of people is the real story.
Andrea Orlosky, and husband Kevin are both artists. They have both experienced first hand the healing effects of art. After a trauma left Kevin with long-term medical issues, the key to his recovery became his art, and the process of creating it. He eventually studied and then started teaching art, finding ways to share his healing-through-art experience with those he saw in need of help.
“He explored his new reality through art” Andrea said. Kevin had lingering effects from the trauma that left him in the ICU. He couldn’t hear out of one ear. He suffered from migraines. “[Art] was key for him.” Andrea said. “My story was less dramatic” she says as a segue to her experience, one which is surely relatable to many. “Art just made me happier”
There is an incredible similarity between these experiences and the ones they led to. What Art On Wheels does, now into its 7th year, is bring a wide range of art instruction programs, like painting and sculpting, to an awesome range of locations, as part of any one of their four main programs.
Aging In The Arts, one of the programs serves elderly people throughout Virginia, with participants usually in their 80′s and 90′s, Andrea said. “Some of them have never painted…Some haven’t painted in about fifty years!” You can read testimonials here, but some highlights include:
“Very good variety in the projects offered. I enjoy being a part of the group! Instructors are very helpful and patient with us all!” -Charles Duncan, YMCA Growing Younger Program
“Everyone is joyous and makes me happy. I can be creative which makes me proud. It widens my perspective of art and helps me appreciate it more.” -Harriet Showalter, The Virginia Home
“I was very happy that I was able to do what I did, considering my vision problems and the weakness in my left hand. I really enjoyed it.” -Barbara Mitchell, Crater District Area Agency on Aging
When the Orloskys gave up finishing grad school to bring art to public schools in Chicago, the path they took could have been many things, but the artists knew that the wanted to do something unique by themselves. “We went for grad school- this was our grad school.” Andrea described the process of not finishing but getting something else started. The people who’s lives are better because of this are countless but not anonymous, and that has to count for something.
“Sometimes they (participants in the Aging In The Arts program) have been waiting all day, or all week for us” She said. This is true for other programs as well.
“I always look forward to class” Barbara, a participant in the “Healing In The Arts” Program battling a serious illness- told them. “It really provides me with the stress relief I need to lift the weight off my shoulders”
Art On Wheels has partnerships with more than a dozen companies like Bon Secours and The YMCA. They have programs for the disabled, programs for people fighting and recovering from serious illnesses, and programs to involve the public. They, partnered with HandsOn Richmond were behind a public mural that was featured in Maymont prior to the centennial celebration of the Japanese Gardens, and have partnered in some of Richmond’s coolest community projects. They really do it all.
This Friday, Hangar 18 , as part of RVA Mag’s Halloweek, will be a chance to help Art On Wheels and have a good time. If you like art, this charity, or fun, attendance is encouraged as Art On Wheels and the RVA Street Art Festival will benefit from the earnings. It will be at the Cary St. GRTC Bus Depot on Friday Night
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