Community Arts Program Brings Healing & Awareness

By Amy Daniels

Erin Barham is a first-year teacher at E.B. Aycock Middle School where she works with exceptional children in math and English. While studying psychology and mental health at Lock Haven University, Barham realized that she had a passion for working with community arts programs.

“Art runs in my family,” says Barham, “and I’ve always been drawn to non-profit work and community art.” Barham volunteered on a regular basis with a program in her hometown that worked to bring art to the local children’s hospital and cancer centers, as well as helping sponsor fundraising and community events. Motivated by a friend who created a children’s art series in Pennsylvania, Barham looked for a way to get involved in the community through a similar program when she moved to Greenville in 2016. When she couldn’t find one, Barham took matters into her own hands and began her own program, Erin’s Palette of Life.

Once a month, Barham brings her art program to patients at the American Cancer Society McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge in Greenville. The Hope Lodge offers guests and their caregivers safe, comfortable accommodations in proximity to local cancer treatment centers while they are receiving care. Barham’s program provides a creative and social outlet for patients undergoing treatments.

“It’s a way to take their mind of why they are there,” Barham explains. “They may have just gotten back from treatment, and this is something to look forward to at the end of the day. They really enjoy being able to create something.”

The laid-back environment allows patients to connect with one another through a positive experience in which anyone can participate, even those who have low mobility due to their conditions or treatment. “I try to be encouraging. This is for everybody and a paintbrush is a very forgiving tool,” Barham says.

Barham is currently looking for sponsors to help build her program so that she can expand into other facilities. Cancer Services of ENC provides paint, brushes, canvases, and other materials for the Erin’s Palette of Life at Hope Lodge. “I have some wish list items, like table-top easels, that I would like to get eventually,” Barham says. 

In February, Barham is hosting Brushes Against Brain Cancer, a mother/daughter Valentine’s painting event at the Biscuit and the Bean in Winterville. The event, to be held on February 9, is a fundraiser to benefit Rally for Ally, a non-profit dedicated to funding research for pediatric brain cancer. Participants will paint, enjoy brunch, and participate in a special photo shoot. Event details are available on the Rally for Ally Facebook page.

Learn more about Erin’s Palette of Life on Facebook. To donate money or supplies, contact Cancer Services of ENC at 252-561-5351, and be sure to let them know you want to make a donation for art supplies for Erin’s Palette of Life. Information about Hope Lodge can be found at www.cancer.org, and more about Rally for Ally can be found at rallyforally.org.

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