The Art of Becoming Whole

Art is Margaret O’Brien’s way back.    
    The way was long for this 55-year-old whose suffering from childhood abuse recurred as post-traumatic stress disorder. At Arundel Lodge, she found first a loving home, then help in remaking her past through art.
    “It was the atmosphere of praise here,” O’Brien says, “that helped me overcome my past.”
    In the Lodge’s Fresh Start program, O’Brien rediscovered herself. Like most discoveries, hers took dead ends, turnarounds and persistence.
    Early in 2010, O’Brien ventured into the Deede Miller art program.
    Art is one means among many Arundel Lodge uses to help people make a fresh start. “Choosing to begin anew,” says executive director Mike Drummond, is the goal of the Lodge, which provides mental health and support services to 700 clients. About 170 live in the Lodge, designed by Annapolis architect Catherine Purple Cherry to resemble a village. A couple hundred more come day by day.
    The comprehensive program to help people work their way out of darkness includes case management, treatment, housing, nutrition, education and supportive employment. All this happens in an “atmosphere of praise” that’s perceptible as you walk the halls and visit classrooms — including Miller’s art studio — where how to get along is both the subject and the practice.
    “The art program promotes skill development and enables self-discovery,” says Miller, who showcases her students’ work in the Lodge’s OpenEye Gallery. “It also produces a state of happiness and well-being.”
    Weaving quickly became O’Brien’s art. The feel and colors of the yarn, some muted others vibrant, appealed to her. She took to managing multiple yarns like an old hand, though she’d never before laid her hands on a loom. Volunteer Marge Margulies helped the beginner create her style.
    Inspiration came independently. “I capture fond memories from my past in my weavings,” O’Brien says.
    She created the weavings entitled Lucile in honor of her grandmother.
    Her first weaving hangs over the lobby desk, her gift to the Lodge.
    In a year and a half, O’Brien has created 15 weavings and sold five — but not Lucile, which is not for sale. She works mainly on commission with customers to whom she offers professional business cards complete with email, website and telephone number.
    Now she thinks of herself as an artist, and she thinks of her future.

See O’Brien’s weavings and the creations of other Arundel Lodge artists at the show What It Means to Be Human. 5-8pm Friday May 20 at Arundel Lodge, 2600 Old Solomons Island Road, Edgewater: