Creativity Heals: Finding peace through painting

Sandra Laite has faced more than her share of challenges. But it was fleeing an abusive relationship a little over four years ago that brought her to New London. Here, support from social service agencies and connecting to her creative flow have helped her build a new life.

As a teenager, Laite lived in a state group home. It was there that she earned the nickname Panda. She has always loved panda bears and has a collection of them.

So when her group at the Oasis Center, a clubhouse program at Sound Community Services, was going to be participating in the Arts in Health collaborative art exhibit, she immediately knew what she wanted to paint: a pink panda!

It was Laite’s first time trying her hand at painting. Not only did she discover that she had a talent, she was also amazed at how much she benefitted from participating in the arts.

“Just the experience of doing it, being with people and participating in the creative flow was awesome,” she said. “It was amazing when we learned that our art was going to tour in the exhibit.”

She added, “Going to the openings made me feel proud, and like I was making an impact in the community and with each other.”

Phillip Steffens, Laite’s advocate, sees a distinct difference in her as a result of the project.

“Painting has really helped build Sandra’s confidence. She’s become a big supporter to others and has become an ambassador for helping others through art,” he said.

Laite now serves on the Activities Board for Oasis.

Both Steffens and Laite credit painting with having a healing effect, mentally and physically.

“When you are busy creating, you forget about your ailments; you focus on what you are doing instead,” she said. “It’s non-restrictive. You just let your art flow. You can’t make mistakes; it’s your art.”

Five years ago, Laite was homeless and didn’t know where the help she needed would come from. Today, she lives in her own efficiency apartment with her cat Luna. She is enjoying life and her community.

“Painting helped me get past my limits and understand that I can achieve what I set out to do,” Laite said. “Art keeps me motivated, keeps me going. I can do this — you can do it too!”

Her next painting? A portrait of Luna the cat.

Emma Palzere-Rae is associate director for Artreach Inc. If you have a story about how creativity has helped you heal, contact emma.artreachheals@gmail.com.

Biography

Who: Sandra Laite

Town: New London

Creative Outlet: Painting

Helpful Resource: Sound Community, soundcommunityservices.org

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