The HANGAR | Gallery & Arts Initiative

Welcome to the official blog and media hub for The HANGAR | Gallery & Arts Initiative. Located in the Wynwood Arts District, The Hangar is dedicated to the collective movement of creative exhibition and seeks to open the lines of communication between artist, patron and community. www.hangargallery.com

Healing through Art : Interview with Molly Cécile Surazhsky

Molly holding up some of her student's artwork.

Molly holding up some of her student’s artwork.

After making art with her brother during his battle with Leukemia, Molly Cécile Surazhsky decided to make a positive impact in the community by providing summer art classes for children diagnosed with cancer. Molly was kind enough to meet with us to talk a little bit more about herself and her goals with the Nika Healing Arts Foundation.

Molly was 15 when her brother Nicholas was diagnosed with ALL (Leukemia) at the age of 4. His intense chemotherapy affected his energy levels and working on art was one of the few things he was able to do. It was a form of therapy to deal with all the changes happening around him. Molly was also creating personal work through fiber art to cope with the stresses that came with her family situation. She portrayed the realities children and families face when dealing with cancer through sewn dolls in various treatment stages and hospital gowns with hand embroidered stories.

Her research and involvement developed into her recent endeavor of creating the Nika Healing Arts Foundation. This non-profit organization strives to inspire children diagnosed with cancer with free therapeutic art classes. Through community involvement and art auctions, the foundation hopes to raise funds for the classes and alternative childhood cancer research.

How did you first get started with art?

I think it was ever since I could hold a pencil in my hand! I went to the Fame High School of the Arts in NYC, where I majored in Visual Arts. At that point, I grabbed every single opportunity that I could possibly handle in New York, beginning with a job in Arts Education at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I studied and exhibited my art at the Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Union, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Piece from "The Children Are Sick.." Series

Piece from “The Children Are Sick..” Series

What kind of work (artistically or professionally) do you enjoy doing?

My art has always been my method of coping with a difficult situation and connecting with the public on a personal level. Well right now my focus is making art about childhood cancer. This initially started after my little brother was diagnosed with Leukemia (ALL) in 2008. Since then I experimented in different artistic mediums and have now come to my main roots, which is the use of fiber arts. An example of this would be embroidered hospital gowns or hand-sewn dolls depicting children with cancer. My chosen medium came pretty naturally since I grew up in a family of tailors. My mom was a tailor, her sisters are tailors, my grandmother is a tailor, and so the list goes on. I find that by hand-sewing my art, the art becomes personal between the viewers.

Have you taught classes in the past?

I went from being an intern at the Brooklyn Museum, where I started out by giving tours and eventually worked my way up to giving art classes to children and families. Ever since moving to Miami, I began giving free art classes to a very special, 12-year old girl, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Then I was hired by a non-profit named, Arts for Learning, which has given me the opportunity to give art classes to low-income kids in Little Haiti and kids with disabilities in North Miami. My experience has been nothing short of amazing. I plan to continue teaching this summer at the Art Center South Florida.

Why did you decide to reach out to children with cancer and cancer survivors?

I have several reasons for reaching out to children with cancer and childhood cancer survivors. Of course, having gone through the experience with my little brother, I feel that it is the right thing to do and give back to our society, beginning with children. For children with cancer, art can be a non-invasive form of therapy that can help a child heal. We have to understand that children with cancer and their families go through a complete change in their lives. Usually children with cancer have a lack of physical energy, but art can fill that empty gap. Once again, art is a method of dealing with those kinds of stresses.

The last reason and possibly one of the most important reasons that I am going to have these classes, is that through art we can produce funding for more research into childhood cancer. More children die of cancer every year than the number of people that died in 9/11. That is a mind-boggling statistic and many doctors are now beginning to admit that standard treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation are ineffective for many patients. My goal is to produce funding for a more holistic approach to childhood cancer research.

Nicolas painting during his treatment.

Nicolas painting during his treatment.

What do you hope the kids will get out of the classes?

Importance. I want each child to have a sense of importance through art making. These classes will be all about the kids and putting the spotlight on them. It is all about making each child feel special and hopefully, one of the ways that we will achieve this is by wrapping up the classes with an exhibition of the kids’ art. I want children to leave these classes with a new sense of hope, inspiration, and the courage to dream.

THE HANGAR will be hosting an art auction for the Nika Healing Arts Foundation this Friday at 7:00pm. The Art Auction will showcase the artworks of numerous reputable artists and feature live music by Jo.el. You can support this important cause by donation and through the continuous art supply drive at the Hangar Gallery.

Find more details here at the event page.

By Kristen Cruz

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