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Phebe Campsey, Art Therapist, finds Center work as rewarding for her as for participants

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Adults and children working hard to prepare for April Hoxie Gallery show

Phebe Campsey, who started art therapy classes at the Olean Center in November, has everyone working hard in advance of our annual Art Show, at the Westerly Library Hoxie Gallery, which runs from April 3 to April 29, with an opening night reception scheduled for April 6 from 5 to 7 p.m.

“I’m running five groups a week for adults, and we are sending a new activity with instructions home to children every week ,” Phebe said.

This year’s theme for the show is “Community” and Phebe has our Adult Services participants painting individual pieces of a large puzzle that will represent community connections. The 4-foot-wide puzzle will be the centerpiece of the show. Smaller canvasses with additional messages to the community also will be included in the show, as will artwork from the Children's Services program.

Phebe’s Adult art therapy program is largely funded by a grant from the Fogarty Foundation, with the Verizon Wireless Zone generously funding the children’s art program.

We are fortunate to have someone of Phebe’s ability with us. A graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she has been teaching for more than 15 years. In addition to general art classes – including with the United Theatre and Malted Barley in Downtown Westerly -- she has worked with at-risk youths, in hospital day-programs for neurologically impaired adults and those recovering from stroke, and with developmentally disabled teens.

Phebe has found her time at the Olean Center to be especially fulfilling.

“It’s been really rewarding seeing the reactions of participants and watching them share their work with each other. It fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work,” Phebe said. “I like to say creativity is accessible to everyone – it’s not a matter of age or your background in art.”

What has been especially rewarding is her work with those who are more severely limited physically and need help to handle the materials.

“I do hand-over-hand work to assist them in the creative process and that is really special. I’ve gotten to know everyone better as the weeks go on and working with the Direct Support Professionals is great because it really makes me feel like I’m part of the team,” she said.

In addition to working with participants at the Center, Phebe incorporates off-site events such as painting pottery at Get Fired Up in Pawcatuck and, for our Children’s Program participants in other parts of the state, such as Clayground studio in East Greenwich.

Phebe’s connection to the Center has been a win-win for all involved. Originally from Long Island, she found that she needed to get back to a coastal location after living in Brooklyn for many years. She moved to Westerly two years ago fulfilling her “need to be back by the water and for more space.” She met Executive Director Ruth Tureckova at a Business After Hours hosted by the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce just when Ruth was looking for an art therapist.

Phebe feels fortunate to be in Westerly and to be reaping the rewards of working with Olean Center participants. And we certainly feel fortunate to have her in on our team.

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