The Healing Power of Art
Tom Smith of Sunderland did not become an artist until about a year before he died of Alzheimer’s. That was when he discovered the miraculous therapy of making art, which brought a period of happiness and creativity when he was steadily losing his cognitive powers. Smith had been a successful city planner in NYC for 34 years. His was a warm and outgoing personality, and in his retirement in Vermont he had enthusiastically enjoyed hiking and fishing and the great outdoors. All of this was greatly diminished by his Alzheimer’s until he was introduced to making art, the subject of the new exhibit at the Canfield Gallery, opening on Saturday, September 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. with a reception hosted by his widow, Julie Hutchinson-Smith. Visitors to the show will see many of the more than 100 watercolor paintings Tom created before he died in April 2016, as well as several paintings by his art teacher Russ Housman, founder of the Canfield Gallery when the new Martha Canfield Library was built on East Arlington Road.
Smith’s amazingly beautiful abstract watercolors will give viewers an intimate view of the healing power of art – even in the most difficult circumstances. As Julie explains, “When I watched Tom paint, music in the background, he became fluid. He was seamless in his love of brush and paper, color and texture. He was free at that time from the illness that begrudgingly came to define him. I remember him saying, ‘My creations make my spirit soar. They take all my pieces and make me whole again.’”
Paintings in this memorial exhibit will be on view during library hours until September 28. They will not be for sale, as the family understandably wishes to keep them. The Housman Charitable Foundation and members of Smith’s extended family are making a memorial contribution to the library to honor him; the public is invited to make a donation as well. For information, call 802-375-6153 or visit