By Zoë Wyner
It is a Friday morning. Upon walking into a sunny room, you find 6 artists working at various tables around the space. Two of these individuals are painting. Another is following a complex pattern for a bracelet, stringing seed beads effortlessly. Three are gathered around a large table with works of art out in front of them, discussing the exhibition at a local library where one of them has her work on display.
One of the artists, a painter, stands back from her easel and tilts her head to the side, surveying the work she has done. Her canvas is rich in color, a deep blue background with a window in the center, yellow curtains billowing in the wind. The artist’s name is Pat Peter, a relatively new member of the community at Gateway Arts
Pat was a newcomer to Boston when she first came to Gateway Arts. Before moving to the area, Pat lived on Nantucket, where she had been living and working as a physical therapist since 2000. In her free time there Pat would occasionally draw and paint, exploring different mediums and developing a style of her own. Pat had a mental illness and PTSD, for which she would see a local therapist on a regular basis. Overall, while on Nantucket, Pat led a relatively quiet life.
When Pat did make art, it was predominantly for herself, her family, and friends. it was something that only those she was close to knew she was passionate about. She worked on her art independently until her therapist at the time recommended that she join an arts oriented support group made up entirely of women. This group was led by artist Mary Filingeri, who had a background in art therapy. In her group, Mary taught using the core belief that everyone has some artistic talent within and the innate ability to paint. It was there that Pat began working in acrylics and gained confidence as an artist. Mary was especially encouraging of Pat’s work and would later become her art coach.
Having lived with mental illness for many years, Pat had had a variety of therapists, learned different coping mechanisms, was prescribed a variety of medications and was hospitalized multiple times at different sites. These different “solutions” to her ailments would help for periods of time, but never seemed to work as long term solutions. Eventually, her career in physical therapy became too demanding and she had to make a lifestyle change. Pat sought out treatment at McLean’s Hospital in Belmont, MA, a renowned and highly esteemed facility. There, she worked with the trauma and dissociation staff and received assistance in setting up a treatment team that was specifically suited to her needs. There were many in her unit that she found she could relate to. McLean’s helped her start to move forward with her life. Her identity was still tied to Nantucket at the time, but Pat knew that she would not be able to receive the help that she needed while living there. Upon her therapist at McLean’s recommendation, Pat moved to Boston in 2012.
However, once in Boston, Pat painted much less. She was adjusting to a new home and did not have the support of her friends, and found that she was less motivated to work. Pat did paint on her own, but did so infrequently. She mentioned this to her therapist, who recommended she get in touch with Gateway Arts. Gateway Arts would provide a space for Pat to work as well as a community of artists to work with. Pat looked into this, and ultimately attended the Artist Training Program at Gateway, a 17-week program funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and run through Studio A. During those 17 weeks, Pat worked alongside a few other artists who were all working towards developing portfolios and artist resumes, in addition to furthering their skill sets and learning how to function professionally as artists. After the program, Pat was more motivated to get her work into shows and sell independently from Gateway’s gallery; however, she still felt she needed some additional supports as well as a space to paint. It was the first time since her painting group on Nantucket that she had been so creatively productive, and much of that was due to the work environment that Gateway had provided her. So Pat, with the help of her MRC counselor, was granted additional funding by the organization so that she could continue attending Gateway on an ongoing basis.
Pat is now an integral part of the community in Studio A. She comes to the studio once a week and has the chance to catch up with other artists as well as to continue to grow as a painter. The patrons of Gateway know her work, and there are a handful of individuals who collect her pieces. Her work is distinctive, evocative of her time living on Nantucket. Despite the bold pallet she chooses for her pieces, her paintings remain light, airy, and playful. She has had a few works in exhibitions outside of Gateway Arts, and will have her first solo show over the summer, which will be on display in Gateway Art’s Front Gallery at 62 Harvard St. in Brookline. The show will be on display from 6/9/2015 through 8/22/2015, and a reception will be held on Saturday 7/18 from 2-4.
For more information on Pat Peter, please visit www.gatewayarts.org