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What's Up Magazine

Towne Salute: May Frances Ramsey of Arundel Lodge

Nov 09, 2016 03:12PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Becca Newell

Almost six years ago, May Frances Ramsey reached out to a friend whose picture she spotted in the community newspaper. In the photograph, the gentleman was at an art show and, being a self-described crafter, Ramsey was intrigued.

“I said ‘Tell me about Arundel Lodge ’” she says. “He told me about it and brought me over. And I loved it. I’ve been here ever since.”

For those unfamiliar with the Annapolis-based nonprofit, Arundel Lodge’s mission is to improve the lives of community members impacted by mental health and substance abuse disorders. The organization provides a variety of services—like the art therapy program, where Ramsey dedicates her time—for its 3,000-plus clientele.

Typically, Ramsey spends one morning a week in the art department, helping out with anything and everything—communicating with clients, cleaning up supplies, organizing the space, and more.

Each week offers a different project for clients to create, although they’re free to deviate from that task and, instead, focus on a personal piece, she explains. From painting to knitting to sculpting, the options for participating artists are as endless as the tasks undertaken by Ramsey. Her main objective, however, is for all clients to relish the cathartic environment.

“Even if they come in and just color a page in a coloring book, it’s therapeutic for them,” she says. “They’re so proud of their work.”

Just one step inside the sunlit classrooms and the creative, yet relaxing energy is overwhelming—its walls are lined with framed paintings, collages, and sketches; from the ceiling hang colorful origami and glass ornaments. The tabletops are covered with dried paint, a rainbow of markers, and notepads full of pencil drawings—their chairs inviting even the most non-artistic person to take a seat and release any stress or frustrations in a light-hearted doodle.

“It gets their minds off of their problems and helps them to concentrate on other things,” Ramsey says.

And the growth in artistic expression and ability isn’t the only benefit to this program either, she adds. Throughout the weeks, she observes clients learning how to work with each other, grasping social skills like sharing materials and workspace.

“It’s rewarding to me to see them change and develop,” she says.

Art shows, held relatively frequently, provide clients with the opportunity to not only show, but sell, their pieces. Twenty percent of the proceeds benefit Arundel Lodge, to replenish the numerous art supplies, and a percentage is given to the artist.

“Artists set their own price for their art; they’re in control of their work,” adds Tanya St. John, Director of Development.

And as much as Ramsey loves the creative aspect of her role at Arundel Lodge, it’s obvious her adoration for its clients, staff, and fellow volunteers is what spurs her devotion to the organization.

“What more wonderful thing could you have than people be excited to see you?” she says, with a hearty chuckle. “I love them all.”

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