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Local artist promotes cancer talk through hats

Photo by Olivia Gear. These are some of the hats on display in the Hjemkomst Center for an exhibit entitled the "sheARTS Project: Art Hats for Breast CAncer Awareness" done by local artist and Stage IV cancer survivor Claudia Pratt. Photos accompany the exhibit to show the hats being worn.

In rare times, out of pain and adversity, beauty is created.  Local artist and Stage IV cancer survivor Claudia Pratt is currently in the process of showing off the artwork created during her fight with cancer.

To help foster ongoing cancer dialogue, her exhibit is currently on display through March 26 at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

Pratt was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and she did not take her diagnosis as a life sentence but rather an opportunity to live more fully and intentionally. The first steps towards healing occurred after the first rounds of chemotherapy: Pratt had her newly exposed head painted in a rainbow of colors and designs and words like heal, love and faith. Her boldness to expose the effects of chemo treatment opened up an unexpected door for cancer dialogue through art.

Out of this realization, the “sheARTS Project: Art Hats for Breast Cancer Awareness,” a series of photographs of Pratt donning a variety of creative hats made by different local artists, was created with help from her friend and photographer Meg Luther Lindholm.

Pratt started by encouraging other artists to come up with their own versions of headwear and encouraged them to donate later hats to cancer charities. As a variety of hats started flooding into the sheARTS Project, Luther Lindholm and Pratt began their journey of artistic expression and healing. The hats are all unique, or, as Pratt explains, “from all walks of life.” Some came with back stories and others waited to be worn.

“Hats, all types were donated, most when I needed a boost,” Pratt said. “They showed me what was possible with no hair. The hats had multiple meanings; meanings for the hat artist, my audience, how they were worn and personal meanings for me as well.” She and Luther Lindholm attempted to unveil the personality of each hat though accessories, outfits, daily emotions and events.

Many of the hats were not practical; Pratt modeled in hats made out of coffee filters, wool, wood shavings and a variety of other materials. She reflected that choosing a favorite hat would be very hard.

“Every hat makes me feel wonderful in such a unique way, makes me feel special,” she said.

Pratt does have a favorite photograph though. “The photograph with me and the painted hat has personal significance of the healing journey,” she said.

Pratt is not the only one impacted by her own healing journey. Luther Lindholm is also pleased with the community response to her photographs. “I’ve been impressed by how this project has ignited people’s passions and feelings of wanting to contribute,” she said.

The goal was not only to expose cancer through art but also to promote dialogue among its victims and the entire community. When one person suffers, the community is called up as a support system. This is why at Pratt’s exhibit viewers have the opportunity to share their thoughts on Post-it notes that will be incorporated into the on-going art project to further promote dialogue.

Photo by Olivia Gear. Claudia Pratt showcases her unique art style by using words and pictures to help overcome cancer in a n exhibit showing in the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

“One of the biggest lessons I am learning is the importance to share your journey with others,” Pratt said. “They may not understand everything you are going though, but people are supportive. Challenges should be shared with those willing to help.”

Pratt’s showcase also included a birthday bash celebrating her 50th birthday on Feb. 25. The party raised funds for an F-M Area Foundation Art Heals Fund as well as acted as a celebration of life including games and dancing.

For Pratt, cancer was not an end to life, but rather a call to embrace it. Her art expresses the vitality and beauty of life being lived out not perfectly, but intentionally; out of Pratt’s pain has emerged fun and beautiful hats, itching at a chance to draw out human loveliness.

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