Friday, May 30, 2014

Fresh Art From A Cool Cat At Spa Mosaic

Mama C. at a recent show at Gallerie Ellipsis in Newport, RI

Narragansett based artist Janice Causey, or “Mama C” as many endearingly call her, is a true renaissance woman who has passionately dedicated her life to the creative arts. Much of Causey’s work could be described as impressionist – think Van Gogh meets Janis Joplin on a balloon ride around the world - but this wild child’s style cannot be simply stuffed in a box. Her bold, colorful, and sometimes abstract visions, which can be captured on canvass or framed up in a photograph, are rich with texture and depict what Causey sees as the inner being of her subject. 

Causey spent most of her career working as an art teacher for elementary, middle, and high schools students. She also moonlighted as an art director and consultant for many galleries as she moved up and down the east coast. Now happily retired in her native land, this forever-young spirit of the sixties has fixed her focus on her own art, which is currently on display at Spa Mosaic in the South County Commons until June 27.

“I absorb myself in nature, and through this total immersion, I learn to respect its essence,” Causey says. “When I paint, I like to have some music going while I dance around my studio. The music shows me the way.”

The Red Tree

Whatever she does to get in the moment seems to be working. Her broad range of techniques helps her transcend boundaries, and her art has captured attention from fans both young and old. 

A teacher is a perpetual student who never stops looking for inspiration. Though she holds three degrees – two masters, and one bachelors - from the Rhode Island School of Design, Causey is constantly enrolling in workshops and courses to help sharpen her skills and expand her horizons.

On one of her latest adventures she spent a month in Italy with renowned painter Julian Nightangale. “It was truly amazing to be able to work in the Italian countryside,” said Causey. “To truly soak in the landscapes of Tuscany and Umbria, and be able to learn from someone who knew the area so well is an experience I will keep close to my heart.”

Italian Inspiration

One recurring theme in her body of work is the ocean. As a surfer and paddleboarder, Causey spends a lot of time in and around the water. She says the act of surfing keeps her mind and body in tune with nature, which opens her eyes to inspiration. One day while boogie-boarding in Hale’iwa, Hawai’i, Causey had an experience that helped her to begin thinking “outside the box” when it came to her paintings.

“I was sliding down the face of this beautiful wave when the lip pitched forward over me. Everything went silent as I was completely covered up and riding in the tube. With the spit on my back, I came flying out and I went crashing onto the beach. I had the biggest smile on my face. It was so beautiful in there that I even cried a little bit.”


The artist tried many times to capture that moment on canvas but remained unsatisfied with the results. That was until she decided to break the mold by building and stretching her own canvasses into the shapes of pentagons and hexagons. Causey explained that working with shapes closer to circles has helped her to paint waves in a whole new way, as the circular shapes give the paintings more movement and energy.

With unconventional shapes comes unconventional style. Causey breathes life into her paintings by layering oil & acrylic over spray paint, or by mixing watercolors with strips of tinted tape for added texture.

Tape & Texture

“I’m never afraid of failures for one can grow and learn from them” she said and continued, “For me, creativity equals seeing more than is really there.”

Friday, May 9, 2014

Apraxia Awareness Day is Wednesday May 14

When Portsmouth resident Kendra Jenkins’ son, Talen, couldn’t move his mouth properly to blow out his birthday candles on his second birthday she knew something was wrong.

Jenkins was heartbroken when, after six months of searching for an answer, her son was diagnosed with a condition called Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). But like any good mother, she would not let this overwhelming prognosis keep her from getting Talen the treatment he so desperately needed. But Talen’s treatments had very limited coverage under their insurance. When he was diagnosed, Talen could only speak ten words. “He couldn’t even pucker his lips to give you a kiss,” the mother said.

CAS is a motor speech disorder that becomes apparent as a child is leaning to speak. The disorder effects how one’s brain communicates with the muscles involved in speech, making it difficult for an affected child to plan and produce the precise, highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw, and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech.

Jenkins gained comfort and determination by volunteering for the non-profit group Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of America (CASANA). They helped her to get Talen into the right programs, and connected to other Rhode Island families - 50 that she knows of - going through the same struggle. Together they have made great strides in increasing awareness of this rare condition (approximately 1-2 per 1,000 kids affected), and last year marked the first official Apraxia Awareness Day, which takes place on May 14. 

During a Town Council meeting Monday night, the town of Middletown unanimously voted to proclaim May 14, as Apraxia Awareness Day for the town. This was in response to a letter written to the council by Jenkins. She wrote a similar letter to the Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, who on May 14, will sign off on a proclamation for the State of Rhode Island to recognize the day as well. A group of Rhode Island families affected by CAS will travel to the State House to meet the governor and witness the signing.

“I am so proud of this accomplishment, and I would like to bring more awareness to our local communities,” Jenkins said.  

On Sunday September 14, 2014 at 9 a.m. the Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech will be held at Colt State Park in Bristol. A one-mile walk within the park will be followed by other activities such as face painting, music, and raffles.

Jenkis said one of the biggest problems with CAS is that the general public, as well as doctors are unaware or know very little about the condition. According to Jenkins, CAS is often misdiagnosed as autism because the child cannot speak, and sometimes is not properly diagnosed until the age of five.

Jenkins also said CAS requires specific one-on-one treatment and intense speech, physical, and occupational therapy. She said that her insurance currently pays out on 24 speech therapy visits per year. “We go through those visits in about eight weeks,” said Jenkins.

In 2008, CASANA began funding pilot research projects to make sure that kids with (CAS) can be properly identified, to figure out which treatment methods are most effective, and to learn more about the longitudinal life-span of (CAS), such as what percentage of children – with appropriate help – end up going to college, and holding jobs. Their work has lead to more published journal articles on treatments, and has enabled researchers to go to the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders to fund larger projects, which include CAS.

“Not all insurance companies are the same,” said CASANA founder Sharon Gretz. “Some cover it, some cover speech therapy, but not enough of it, and some don’t cover it at all. We support families by aiding when appealing denials to insurance companies by providing materials and information to support their efforts.”

Over the past year, Talen has attended seven speech therapy sessions a week, four at Mellville Elementary in Portsmouth, and three at Alphabet Soup in North Kingstown where he receives PROMPT therapy, a technique that involves restructuring oral muscular phonetic targets. This means that the therapists physically manipulate the oral muscles by pressing underneath the chin, around the nose, cheeks, and other areas to help the child feel the muscles needed to make specific sounds. “The process is very invasive, but Talen has grown to love what they help him accomplish,” Jenkins said.

With proper treatment Talen has gone from being able to speak 10 words to an impressive 60, and now has a vowel accuracy rate of 70 percent, up from 10 percent when he started. Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of his treatment however is that on his fourth birthday Talen was able to blow out all his birthday candles on his own.

Councilor Bruce Long thanked Jenkins for her hard work and recalled when insurance companies were reluctant to cover services for autism. He said after people pushed hard to raise awareness, legislation was eventually passed mandating insurance companies to recognize and coverer the disorder. 

“That’s why were here,” said Jenkins and continued, “The more people know about Apraxia, the more cases can be diagnosed sufficiently.” 

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