Drawing outside the lines

. May 6, 2013.

There is an artist in every child. To reach, encourage, and communicate with that artist, Sarah Crisp, along with her partner Findlay resident, Lydia McKinley, became certified Mneme Therapists, opening Northwest Ohio’s first chapter of Art Without Boundaries this year.
“When I first heard about it I knew it was what I was supposed to do,” says Crisp.  “It mixes my true passions of Psychology, Art, and empathy…it was a true calling.  

Knowing no boundaries
Art Without Boundaries (AWB) is a national, online-based organization of Visual Art Therapists who focus on using Mneme Therapy. Mneme Therapy (pronounced “nemma”) aims to improve the quality of life, memory, and other natural skills of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and related dementia diseases.  In 2007, after years of success and positive feedback about the program, founder of AWB Noell Hammer expanded her patient base to include children and others with Autism.  That’s where Crisp and McKinely came in.
“My best friend of 15 years [Lydia] took me out to dinner and proposed the idea to me,” says Crisp, regarding the beginnings of her involvement with AWB.  “Her aunt is the founder of the organization. When it started to really take off, Lydia decided to get into it but wanted me to do it with her…I did not hesitate, I wanted to do it that day.”
After completing the online training program given by the AWB, Crisp and McKinley began their apprenticeships.  To fully complete the program and open their own AWB business, both needed 20 hours of on-site training at a variety of locations, working with patients with Autism, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions.  After seven months of training and hands-on experience, Crisp and McKinley proudly started their own chapter and have established a wide client base.
“I have clients with situations that range from severe dementia, to short term memory damage, Autism, ADHD, and Down Syndrome,” says Crisp.  “The private pay clients that I have are so much fun (because) they are the ones that I get to see on a weekly basis; the ones that I really get to know. I feel like they are part of my family.”

Giving direction
Crisp and McKinley focus on using a process with their students called “Directed Painting,” stimulating different areas of the brain and helping neurological reactions work together.  “I tell people it’s like they are in a cooking class,” says Crisp.  “I’m giving them the recipe and the ingredients and they do all the cooking.”   She or her partner puts the paint on the board in front of their students and, Crisp says, they do as directed to make a beautiful piece of artwork.  “We’ve seen amazing differences in speech, attention span, mobility control, awareness, and temperament,” says McKinley about the effects she’s observed after working with patients over time. 
But the positive effects of this therapy don’t stop at their patients.  “The biggest thing I notice is my happiness,” Crisp says.  “I’m doing something that I love, and it makes me want to go to work. I am finally doing something that affects other people’s happiness and that’s something I’ve always wanted to be able to do.”

To learn more about Northwest Ohio’s chapter of Art Without Boundaries, Mneme Therapy, and Directed Painting, you can contact Sarah Crisp at 419-302-3892 or sarahj_crisp@yahoo.com.