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Hope lives on for grieving children through art exhibit in Sewickley

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

One goal of the Highmark Caring Place is to unite children who have lost a loved one. The pain and grief are traits many share because of a tragic life event.

An exhibit — HOPE Lives On — at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley showcases expressions of grief through participants of the Caring Place. The exhibit will remain through April 8.

HOPE Lives On features 65 pieces of artwork from children ages 3 to 17. It also features a community installation piece which involved 6,000 different people.

“This is a newer endeavor for us, but it certainly is in line with our mission in the community,” said Krista Ball, program manager with the Caring Place. “It was a highly affective way for our children to showcase their skills and creativity.”

The Caring Place began in Pittsburgh in 1996, with facilities located in Pittsburgh and the North Hills, as well as Erie and Harrisburg.

Participants' artwork also was displayed at a library in McCandless and in hospitals within the Allegheny Health Network.

There is a wide range of art displayed, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, origami and textiles.

“The art was just so touching,” Ball said. “It really is amazing how children, teens and adults can express themselves. It's wonderful how anyone can use art as a means of expression. We become so accustomed to censoring what we say. We get really good at that. There is a freedom associated with art that really allows us to capture our mind.

“(The art show) expressed many different aspects of the children. It showed their feelings and preserved their memories. There was an expression of hope in the artwork. Having hope, finding hope and holding on to that hope is really the context of the caring place. We want to instill that into the families that come to the caring place.”

Marlo Cyanovich used hope as inspiration for her artwork, appropriately titled, “Look for Hope.”

“Before I realized there was hope, I was sad and gray,” said Marlo, 10. “But after I found it, my world was colorful. If I have hope, I'll have something to look forward to each day, which makes me happy. Even though I lost my dad, I know he wouldn't want me to be sad, he would want me to be happy.”

The larger mission of the Highmark Caring Place is to raise awareness in the community of grieving children and how to respond to them.

“It has been amazing coming to the Caring Place because everyone there has been through losing someone they love, just like me,” said Mia Cyanovich, Marlo's twin sister.

Added 10-year-old Angelina Propst, whose older sister Corrina died: “the Caring Place has helped me to see that I am not alone.”

The art show at Sweetwater is one of the most applicable ways for the children to express their feelings, Highmark spokeswoman Wendy Morphew said.

Abigail Russo, 10, felt her piece, “Love You to the Moon and Back” described her struggles better than he words could.

“I like that people can see how I am feeling through art,” Abigail said. “It is easier than talking about it. People can feel what I am feeling. I think art is a great way to show what you are feeling in a different way but also just helps to not think about stuff.”

Matthew Peaslee is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Marlo Cyanovich.

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