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Artist’s brush becomes Escondido man’s voice following stroke
By Lyn Berry
Today’s Local News Saturday, September, 2008


Palatte Able
Painting classes help restore color to the lives of memory-impaired seniors

By Caroline Dipping
UNION-TRIBUNE July 10, 2004


The ART of healing
Following a dream has become a give-and-take reality for instructor and her students

By Roni Galgano
UNION-TRIBUNE July 8, 2001



Photo by Lyn Berry

Artist’s brush becomes Escondido man’s voice following stroke

By Lyn Berry | Special to Today’s Local News

Saturday, September, 2008

Struggling to communicate with words may send octogenarian John Serrau
into a temporary emotional tailspin, but give the man a brush and color palette,
and he speaks volumes.

Serrau, who lives at Aegis of Escondido, suffered a stroke in December 2006, eight days after his wife died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

The resulting brain damage left him unable to speak clearly, but thanks to the efforts of his health care coordinator and a dedicated art therapist, he communicates through his paintings.

Although he had never picked up a brush until a little more than a year ago, he has produced more than 20 paintings since he began working with Linda Bounds, founder of the art therapy program Leaps and Bounds.

Serrau, who turned 85 on Monday, will display some of his work in combination with a birthday celebration at Aegis of Escondido from 1 to 3 p.m. today.

A highlight of the show will be his painting of an elephant inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” “When he saw ‘Starry Night,’ he fell in love with it,” Bounds
said. “He was sketching an elephant, and he brought van Gogh’s palette into his elephant painting. It’s amazing.” Orders for prints of the elephant painting will be taken at the event, with profits benefiting Leaps and Bounds.

Serrau’s stroke recovery program is guided by health care coordinator Jana Zrake, who had worked with Serrau’s wife for a year and a half before her death. When Serrau’s stroke followed so soon after, Zrake stepped naturally into the role of working with him.

“I used to draw little pictures with him, and it would make him laugh,” Zrake said. “Then he would draw some incredible pictures, too, and that’s when I remembered the work that Linda Bounds does. She agreed to work with John and the progress has been miraculous.

“He had never painted before, and he just keeps getting better and better. When Linda shows his art to other residents as they walk down the hallway, his shoulders go back and he’s standing taller. He feels like somebody again.”

Bounds, whose LEAPS program is an acronym for Lovingly Energetic Art Programs for Seniors, agrees.

“In the last year and a half, I have seen an individual who has lost his ability to communicate, who doesn’t always have the words he wants, become someone who is outgoing, demonstrative and expressive,” Bounds said.

“He works from photos or magazine pictures and does incredible work. We have such a heart connection, and he knows he’s doing something extraordinary.”

Zrake, who runs her own company called Pacific Personal Affairs Management, believes Serrau is an excellent example of hope for victims of strokes and Alzheimer’s and their families.

“I don’t ever want families to give up hope,” she said. “The patients still have part of the person they used to be inside. It is up to us as the healthy ones to find the connection.”

Zrake said Serrau is a man with a tremendous background in early television who traveled to some 200 countries in his lifetime. With his stroke, she said, he had “become beaten down, but now he has pride.”

©2004 today'slocalnews inc. all rights reserved






Palette able

Painting classes help restore color to the lives of memory-impaired seniors

By Caroline Dipping


July 10, 2004

Ena Cooper loved to paint, write, garden and play the piano. At family gatherings, she was a magnet.

But Cooper slowly began fading away, leaving an almost silent shell.

The tide of Cooper's long descent into dementia turned a year ago when her daughter, Shoshanah Tov, found an art class for Alzheimer's patients called Leaps & Bounds. Despite her mother's feeble protestations, Tov enrolled her in the class, taught by volunteer Linda Bounds.

"She hadn't picked up a paintbrush in years," Tov said of her mother. "Everything had gone away by the time we got to Linda."

When Cooper first met Bounds, she avoided eye contact and stared out the window. When Bounds asked her if she wanted to paint, Cooper mumbled, "I don't know," her daughter remembered.

Within a couple of sessions, Bounds, with her enthusiastic encouragement, had Cooper painting like an impressionist master, daubing a little yellow ochre here, a little red cadmium there. Over the months, colorful oil paintings came to life. And to a degree, so did Cooper.

"She was improving, which is a crazy thing to say with Alzheimer's," said Tov, noting that her mother was more talkative than she had been in years. "She was more aware. She had a sense of humor again. You could see more bits of herself.

On days when Bounds asked Cooper if she was too tired to paint, the reply came firmly, "No, no. I don't want to stop."

The idea for Leaps & Bounds was born in 2000, the year Bounds began painting a new self-portrait. She quit her 15-year career as a high school guidance counselor and went through a divorce she never saw coming. This mother of two 20-something children faced a clean canvas.

She decided to teach oil painting. There were watercolor and pastel classes around town, but nobody seemed to be teaching oil painting. Bounds knew she could fill the void with her art background that spanned more than 25 years.

After talking with a friend who is a social worker at an adult rehabilitation center in East County, Bounds decided to teach seniors. She found herself saying, "Let me see if I can make these people's lives a little bit better."

She bought her own supplies and donated her time. Four years later, Bounds still donates her time, but the assisted living facilities pay for supplies.

Bounds teaches memory-impaired seniors at several places around the county, including assisted living centers in Carlsbad, La Jolla and Rancho Peñasquitos. In addition to her volunteer work, Bounds has paying clients – people with disabilities, troubled youth and seniors – at her art studio in East Village.

Still life

Painting has worked wonders for Marcia Buchalter's 91-year-old mother, Charlotte.

"When you let someone stagnate, when you let them sit around with not much to do, they spiral down very, very, very quickly," Marcia Buchalter said. "It (Leaps & Bounds) gives my mother a way to express herself. She doesn't have that vacant look in her eyes. She is focused and concentrating. She becomes very alive."

And her mother adores Bounds, Buchalter said. "She would do anything for her. Linda connects with her on a level I don't understand."

Watching Bounds paint with 10 women at The Arbors Assisted Living center in Rancho Peñasquitos, it is easy to see how she inspires her students to get into the spirit of Monet or Gauguin, even on days when they are tired or don't feel well.

Bounds held up a canvas with yellow and blue triangular splotches and asked her students to guess what the painting would be in the end. "A mountain," one woman offered from her wheelchair. "A pyramid," another woman suggested.

The splotches were the beginning of a village scene from a work by Monet, Bounds explained as she displayed a color photograph of the completed work. The women will take turns adding to the painting for two or three months, referring to the picture for guidance.

Two by two, they came to the canvas, Bounds crouched between them to offer instruction and praise.

"Tell your brain to go from here to here," she told Lilli Collins as Collins hesitantly placed her brush midair in front of the canvas.

"Oh, it's going to get wilder before it gets better," Bounds said to the class. She often has to prod her students to put brush to canvas, especially those who are new to the class and new to painting.

"There is no such thing as a mistake," Bounds said, reciting her familiar mantra. "I'm going to show you that not only can you not make a mistake, you will use it to your advantage."

Old masters

Ninety-year-old Ruth Goldfarb studied art at the New York Academy of Design and modeled for other artists in the 1930s. But during the past 15 years, as the demands of caring for her ailing husband and her own failing health took precedence, her art fell by the wayside. Her three children noted the depression, health problems and lack of interest in daily activities.

This year, Goldfarb began art classes at the Jacob Health Care Center in East San Diego where she lives. Recently, at Leaps & Bounds' first public exhibition at Bounds' downtown studio, nearly a dozen of her paintings were on display. While much of their time is spent copying the works of famous painters, some of Bounds' students create original pieces of art.

Stephen Goldfarb, Ruth's son and a clinical psychologist, said Leaps & Bounds gives his mother something meaningful to look forward to.

"Her thoughts often had to do with her imminent passing away and that her life was basically in the past and over for her," he said.

Bounds changed all that.

"I see a brightening of her outlook and a real genuine interest in the work she is doing," he said of his mother.

She doesn't remember what happens from session to session, he said, but she always remembers Bounds and speaks glowingly of her technique.

"(Bounds') obvious love for the people she works with is really what creates the atmosphere that allows all this to work," Goldfarb said. "That is so critically important for this patient population."

Bounds forms deep attachments with her students, calling them her children, her parents, her family all rolled into one. Over the years, she has had to cope with many deaths.

"When I got into this, it didn't occur to me that people were going to die on me. I was just going to go keep people company," Bounds said.

"I've said a lot of goodbyes. But I don't feel they ever leave me. I feel my room is full. They are all here, cheering me on. I am very grateful."

Ena Cooper passed away in May, six days shy of her 88th birthday. She had a stroke while painting in Bounds' class and died four days later.

"The end could have been so horrible, but honestly, it wasn't horrible," Shoshanah Tov said, reflecting on her mother's last year of life. "Finding Linda just made all the difference. Linda gave her so much love."

Caroline Dipping is a Union-Tribune news assistant.

© Copyright 2004 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.





The ART of healing

Following a dream has become a give-and-take reality for instructor and her students

Roni Galgano


San Diego, Calif.: Jul 8, 2001. pg. E.1

It's a bright Monday morning and Mary Lou Aldridich is having a great day. This is no small thing, because many of her days are dark as she tries to squint through a thick Alzheimer's haze.

Today the 83-year-old's eyes twinkle like stars above the landscape she's painted and she almost sings aloud.

"It's so fun I can feel the earth. It's just the way I feel," Aldridich says, smiling. Her art instructor, Linda Bounds, quickly joins in:

"Great! Go with it!"

Aldridich peers through her hand to narrow her focus on the canvas.

"Keep the line going. Don't stop," Bounds encourages.

"Yes. Yes. I see it. Yes," Aldridich says, her voice now as sure and firm as her grip on the brush. Both women seem to be holding their breath until the brush stops.

When it does, Aldridich relaxes and reaches up to take Bounds' hand that's resting on her shoulder.

"Thank you for understanding and being with me," Aldridich says. "I know you know how much this means to me, but I wanted to tell you. You're like an angel to me."

This angel is a former guidance counselor at Lakeside's El Capitan High School who, with her kids grown and her marriage ended, decided to devote herself to a lifelong dream of being an artist and using her art to heal.

In this past leap-of-faith year, Bounds has started art programs at two El Cajon residential facilities and formed a nonprofit organization, L.E.A.P.S. and Bounds (Lovingly-Energetic Artistic Programs for Seniors). L.E.A.P.S. will receive its first grant this week when Performa, a Cleveland, Ohio, corporation, meets in San Diego.

"Here I had been so sad for myself," she says. "When I walked into the physical pain of those individuals (at a senior facility) I realized I had found my venue," she said.

"If ever I could help heal their lives, it would be healing for me as well."

Room to dream

Bounds' empathy for her students may come from her own feeling of living in a haze for too long. Until the past year, her life was too busy to do more than notice a nagging sense of loss.

"I was the perfect wife, putting everything before myself," says the Chula Vista native. "It was the worst thing for my marriage, for my children and above all myself."

After the divorce, she was counseled by family and friends to invest her half of the sale of her Pine Valley home in the security of another house. But security wasn't what she had in mind. Living and supporting herself as an artist was a fantasy that she could now almost touch. Content to live in a trailer, she leased a small art studio in downtown San Diego.

This room of her own made her feel so good, she would just sit on the floor and "smell the air."

"I started dreaming for the first time. The first time in a long time about what I was going to be," Bounds says.

That dream always came back to helping seniors, and when she visited SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation in El Cajon, she was overwhelmed at the sight of so many older people in wheelchairs. She also was surprised to find younger disabled people there. She knew she wanted to help.

"I left in the car and cried," she says. "I was happy and sad at the same time."

She began volunteering to teach painting classes at SunBridge and later Parkside Special Care Center, funding all painting supplies out of her own pocket. When the classes started a year ago, none of the students knew each other. Now the new friends joke and laugh together while showing encouragement and concern for each other.

"They could barely give me a name for their favorite color when we first started," Bounds says. Neither could they answer any creative questions about food or music. They were at a loss for words. Now they talk about those things all the time.

No mistakes

At 35, Bridget Payne, who has spina bifida, is one of the younger members at the center. She has had, by her own admission, an understandably negative attitude most of her life.

Activities director Minnie Groel says Payne used to mostly watch TV or listen to music or write in her room. Her health was up and down and she stopped getting out of bed, at least until last spring when Bounds arrived.

The art teacher set up a special bedside table easel for Payne and repeated her often-heard mantra: "You cannot make a mistake."

"That opened doors for me, helping express myself more," Payne says. "I could get my aggressions on canvas. Bring out my emotions. I have a better positive attitude; I'm letting go of the past."

When a six-month pilot program Bounds developed was finished, the seven-member class had its first show, complete with artists reception.

"It was so emotional," Payne says. "One woman absolutely lost it. She was in tears. Seeing her reaction, seeing her emotionally charged made me emotionally charged. It was quite overwhelming."

Groel credits Bounds with bringing out the creativity in people, even those who have never done art.

"She gives herself 100 percent," says Groel. "And she's very patient, and that's not always easy."

Now in the second phase of the program, Payne has branched out from painting in a primitive "Grandma Moses" fashion to mastering a colorful Impressionistic style.

When Bounds pulls Payne's wheelchair back to get a better view of her work, teacher and student wordlessly reach for each other's hands at the very sight.

"Without Linda I would have forgotten about art," Payne says. "There's another world out there. She brought us that world."

New challenges

It's different at Parkside Special Care Center, which specializes in residents with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. But the power of art has proved just as potent.

"Their good/bad days really fluctuate," says Traci Gandy, who worked with Bounds at SunBridge and brought her to Parkside when she became director of residents and family services there.

"It's great when they're having a good day to be doing what they like to do best. They're happier if nothing else.

"With these experiences they are able to recall something that is second nature to them. It's one less frustration, something they can connect with."

Bounds is learning new skills herself teaching at the two diverse centers. She has hooked up with the Alzheimer's Association's art therapy program, "Memories in the Making," and is teaching one of its classes at Parkside.

Early in the disease it's hard making a connection when people feel they're losing connection, according to Joni Bosky, program coordinator of "Memories in the Making."
"Art is therapy," Bosky says. "It taps into the same qualities of the heart and emotions, getting ourselves out on paper in a tangible way."

On her bad days, Mary Lou Aldridich's doesn't know a landscape from a smudge on a canvas. But Aldridich knew that Monday morning what she felt. And that wasn't just paint on her brush, it was passion. And she was having a great day.

L.E.A.P.S and Bounds can be reached at (619) 233-8123.

© Copyright 2004 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.




Linda Bounds is an art teacher, but maybe we should call her ’Dr. Bounds.’ However, in her brand of medicine, paint replaces pills and every canvas is a bigger-than-life prescription pad..
- Leonard Villarreal
Channel 10 news anchorman
presenting 2001 Leadership Award

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