Healing Strokes for Rehabbing Folks

A ground-breaking arts therapy program at Rehab Hospital helps patients return to productive lives at a higher rate than the national average. And it’s darn good art. At the ‘Art From the Heart’ exhibit you can purchase these healing works

Susan Sunderland
Friday - October 14, 2005
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Ellen Matsumoto and John Tuan Le discuss painting techniques
Ellen Matsumoto and John Tuan Le discuss
painting techniques

It’s a revelation. The patients at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific are not disabled. In fact, they know more about being “able” than most of us. If you doubt it, go to Friday’s art exhibition at the hospital and be prepared to be amazed.

Artists in the Louis Vuitton Creative Arts Program at Rehab Hospital present their sixth annual “Art From the Heart” sale and exhibition Friday, Oct. 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. Free to the public, the event is in the hospital lobby at 226 N. Kuakini St.


Artwork includes paintings, table runners, purses, tote bags, pillows, T-shirts, note cards, mini-easels, art boxes, prints, mirrored frames, and flower arrangements by Ikebana Institute of Ohara School.

Proceeds from the sales benefit the Louis Vuitton Creative Arts Program, a unique therapy for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities.

Willidean Makepa gets a hand from from instructor Reuben Young as her children, Noah, 7, and Destiny, 6, work on their own art pieces
Willidean Makepa gets a hand from from instructor
Reuben Young as her children, Noah, 7, and Destiny,
6, work on their own art pieces

KSSK radio personality Michael W. Perry, chairman of the Rehab Foundation, says, “I’ve seen this project come to life over the years. From the early days of the Louis Vuitton Creative arts program ... the first real opportunity in Hawaii for art to become therapy ... the patients have, themselves, made Art From the Heart happen to insure continuation of the art therapy that helped them so much.

“And c’mon, you know you’re at a classy event when the chairman of the board of Rehab Hospital, Ron Ho, is also the entertainment for the evening!” Perry says of the guest pianist.

Ko Miyataki, Rehab Foundation president, adds, “People will be flabbergasted. This is great art at a great price. It’s an opportunity to buy gifts and affordable art for the home or office.”

According to Ellen Matsumoto, Rehab’s director of the creative arts program, there are nearly 250 paintings available, priced from $50 to $400. Private funding is the sole source of revenue for sustaining the program. Artists also get part of the proceeds, making a sale an exciting reward.

“Art is like chicken soup for the soul,” she says.

Kim Howard is one of several students who must paint with the brush in their teeth
Kim Howard is one of several
students who must paint with the
brush in their teeth

Many of the art therapy patients have never painted before. Art has helped them deal with physical disabilities resulting from stroke, injury or other physical traumas.

“Art is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual endeavor,” Miyataki says. “It is a holistic, therapeutic experience when patients reach within themselves to heal.

“This event also is a visible way for the hospital to be in the community,” the foundation president adds. “It’s a positive message about a community resource that helps people rebuild their lives and return to families and society as productive individuals.”


Eighty-five percent of Rehab’s patients return to the community instead of being placed in a long-term nursing home, compared with a nationwide average of 80 percent.

One such individual is Daniel Sakuma, 66, who worked for Matson Terminals for 37 years. “One day you are healthy, you have a good paying job, and then one mistake happens, and your life

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