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Arts Access Show Provides Insight, Inspiration

Matheny Center residents and students provide vivid paintings in partnership with art "facilitators."

Matheny day patient and student Mike Martin may not be able to speak, or get out of his wheelchair, but he sure can paint.

Martin's vivid paintings are among the display of paintings produced through the Matheny Medical and Educational Center's Arts Access program, at the Bernardsville Public Library off Anderson Hill Road in Bernardsville.

Mike Martin's colorful and nuanced geometric paintings are the personal favorites of Letty Oratowski, a registered nurse at Matheny and a Basking Ridge artist who also has served as an "art facilitator" at the center in Peapack-Gladstone.

Oratowski was at Monday's reception to highlight this month's show in the program room at the library, along with some other Matheny staff, art facilitators and a few of the artists. The show and sale includes 20 pieces by 15 different Matheny artists.

"I know the kids because I am still working with some of them," said Oratowski. "I am always happy to see what they do."

Another art facilitator and artist, Joe Matouse of Bayonne, was at the show with one of his "partners" in producing paintings — Matheny resident Jessica Evans.

Evans said she usually provides instructions to Matouse on how she would like her paintings executed, although her piece at the show, "Soaring So High You Can't Even See It," was created with another facilitator working with the Matheny program.

But, explaining how she works with Matouse at her side, Jessica said, "He helped me with other [pieces of artwork.]"

"I tell him what to do. No one can tell me what to do," she said, with a smile.

Evans, wearing pink, said her favorite color is pink, but she also likes purple and the colors of the rainbow. She said she currently is working with Matouse on a painting entitled, "Rainbow Connection."

Although she said she works with other artists in the program, Evans said of Matouse, "I work mostly with him, though, because he does my paintings very well."

"I am a vessel for her to get what she needs to get done," Matouse said. Their successful working partnership has led to Matouse knowing just what "mini-techniques" and special tools Jessica likes to use for her paintings.

Oratowski said she sometimes used a computer on which the Matheny artists could convey what designs they wanted to use.

The Arts Access program is the favorite part of what Mike Martin does at Matheny, said his father, Alan Martin of Morris Plains.

Alan Martin, who was at the show with his son and his wife Linda, said that the family home — where Mike lives while attending Matheny as a day student — is filled with his son's artwork.

Alan Martin called the program "amazing."

Learning about his own son through Arts Access

"My son is a quadriplegic and can't speak, but through his art we got to know more about him," Martin said.

Working by conveying his preferences to other facilitators, Mike Martin has participated in other aspects of the Arts Access program, and is even working on a writing project, his father said.

This display and art sale will provide Arts Access artists the opportunity to share their works with the Somerset Hills community, according to information from Matheny. All proceeds from artwork sales are split 50/50, with half the funds going directly to the artist and the other half going to Matheny to cover the cost of art materials, stretching and framing of the work, a Matheny announcement said.

at other locations. Each year, Matheny hosts "Full Circle" with a full presentation of the program's arts, including dance and poetry.

The Matheny Medical and Educational Center is located in Peapack-Gladstone and serves inpatients, outpatients and students with medically complex disabilities. The school has been at its location for more than 50 years.

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