Clay and fiber artist Kara Thomas had less than 24 hours to get an entire portfolio together. She was determined to apply to Twist Out Cancer’s Brushes with Cancer 2019 Detroit program.
Thomas learned about the program through friend Alison Baldanado. Kara just so happened to call Alison while she was out for lunch with August Spree, a past Brushes with Cancer participant and Twist Out Cancer board member, as they were talking about her participation in the program. It was then that she learned of the artist application due that night, and pulled everything together the day of the deadline.
“I believe that connecting with someone can help heal yourself and heal others,” she said about her passion for Twist Out Cancer’s mission. “I think that with the arts it can go two different ways: I receive healing from my art practice and other people can receive healing from my art. It’s about that human connection.”
With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Thomas has more time to focus her attention on Twist Out Cancer.
“My day-to-day life is unique,” Thomas said. “With more time on my hands, I have been able to give quite a bit of attention to the Twist out Cancer partnership by creating awareness about the program and helping with the matching process.”
Since her first Brushes with Cancer experience, Thomas has been eager to continue participating as an artist with the program. At the upcoming exhibition, Thomas will present two art pieces inspired by two different people.
“It was the first piece that I made that was completely about somebody else’s experience, almost to the point where I was just conveying a message,” Thomas said about experiencing Brushes with Cancer for the first time. “To have someone see their own experience through someone else’s eyes can transform their outlook on it.”
Recently, Thomas took her dedication to the Twist Out Cancer mission to the next level. Based in Detroit, Thomas studied at the College for Creative Studies and currently works at the GM Technical Center as an automotive sculptor. The Technical Center is the U.S. design hub for GM, with most of the automotive giant’s design crafted in Warren, Mich.
After attending the 2019 Brushes With Cancer Gala, GM Tech Center gallery coordinator Jeff Froggett approached Thomas about doing a similar program for GM Design artists and employees. Thomas was very clear that Twist Out Cancer should be involved, and introduced Jeff to August Spree and pitched the idea to bring Brushes with Cancer to GM Design.
This is the first time that Twist Out Cancer will be licensing Brushes With Cancer to a corporate program. All participants are GM Design and Technical Center employees that identify as either artists or someone who has been touched by cancer. Twist Out Cancer’s role is to provide expertise in the matching process and offer a network to help facilitate the program at the Technical Center. Currently, they have close to 50 Participants.
“It’s wild to think that at one point we were unsure if there would be interest,” Thomas said.
For the upcoming Detroit Brushes with Cancer art exhibition, Thomas is paired with two new inspirations. This is additional to the two art pieces she made with 2019 inspiration Emily.
“I’m still close with Emily, who I matched with in 2019,” she said. “I am super thankful she allowed me to make a second piece with her after the Brushes With Cancer program ended. I know she was very vulnerable in the process, so I was grateful she wanted to continue creating, allowing me to produce a series of work.”
The artists and inspirations collaborate through storytelling. Over five months, the two connect and share with each other. As the artists deepen their relationships with their inspirations, they create a unique piece of artwork that is reflective of the inspiration’s journey with cancer.
With the introduction of Brushes with Cancer to the GM Design Center, Thomas is showing her colleagues that art truly heals.
“If there’s something I’m dealing with, I use my art practice to stay present and receive healing,” Thomas said. “By putting energy into it, I receive energy out of it. I consider my art practice to be a form of meditation, as I’m pinching the clay, I can focus the repetitive motion while my body exerts that energy. I can let everything else around me go and be present with my process.”
The Brushes with Cancer program will culminate in a month-long exhibition at the GM Design Center Gallery in Detroit this September. The artwork created will be available for purchase through an online auction. To learn more about the Twist Out Cancer and GM partnership, click here.