Both healing and enlightening, creative expression enhances one's ability to cope with illness and treatment. Under the watchful eyes of Carole McNamee, research professor in human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, an unusual offering of art entitled "Finding the Creative Fire: The Experience of Cancer," opens today, Jan. 24 and lasts until Feb. 16, at the Armory Gallery in downtown Blacksburg.

McNamee, founder of the Willowbank Creative Center, initiated this community outreach effort last year. The eight-week workshop was developed to promote the healing uses of the creative arts in healthcare. Individual and collaborative activities including collage, drawing, painting, soapstone carving, writing, and music were used to explore the individual’s relationship with the challenges of cancer.

“As an adjunct to medical treatment, creative expression can open the door to a more fully lived life,” said McNamee. “Individuals and families coping with illnesses or chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, infertility, or aging, may find a new source of growth or comfort. No training in art is necessary to participate. It is the process of art making that is healing, not the final product.”

McNamee says that Virginia Tech’s program is modeled off of one that was offered at Sloan Kettering in New York some years ago.

“You can find this sort of thing in major metropolitan areas and at medical schools with cancer centers--New York, Washington, Boston,” said McNamee. “It is unusual to have this in a rural area--and there is nothing like it in Roanoke to my knowledge.”

The Armory Gallery is located at 201 Draper Road. It is open Tuesday-Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For information about future group sessions call (540) 449-4421 or e-mail

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