In 1987 Nancy’s husband Robert, then aged 46, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This led to Nancy founding Painting with Parkinsons, the Canberra art group for people living with Parkinson’s, combining her career as a practicing visual artist, curator and educator with her role as a primary care-giver.
In 1996 she travelled through the UK Europe and North America on a Churchill Fellowship studying art as a therapy for Parkinson’s, then formed the specialist program which continues to this day. She has participated in 10 International Parkinson’s conferences, publishing her findings in the USA, UK and Australia. From 1999 to 2003 she ran a pilot trial and workshops for Parkinson’s UK, culminating in the ‘Catalyst’ exhibition held in London combining art work by Painting with Parkinsons Australia and Art for Parkinson’s UK.
In 2018 she published ‘Magic Happens -The Story of Painting with Parkinsons’ .
Recent awards for Parkinson’s work:
WPC (World Parkinson Coalition), Robin Elliott Award | 2019
OAM, Order of Australia Medal | 2019
ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Award | 2014
Painting with Parkinsons has now been running continuously for over 25 years.
In that time, Nancy with her team of facilitators and voluntary helpers have developed a program which looks at the challenges raised by Parkinson’s and addresses them with a tailor-made approach to relieve stress, encourage self expression and induce a state of flow. Aware that Parkinson’s diminishes the ability to initiate movement, speak or write, the program focuses on the concept that each painting is a form of signature. Through the program participants regain their sense of self.
Painting is a ‘can do’ activity for people who had had their life skills diminished by Parkinson’s. One of the driving forces behind the program is the knowledge that creative ability is not affected by Parkinson’s and may even be enhanced by it.