Grand Rapids artist uses painting as therapy

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A diagnosis years ago set a Grand Rapids man on a path to spending more time doing a hobby that’s therapeutic for his body and soul.

Nearly 25 years ago, Wes DeVries was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 4 — a disease that’s characterized by muscle weakness and the progressive decline of mobility.

“I was putting a piece of pie in an oven that was built into a wall and my arm collapsed.  My wife saw my arm collapse and said ‘is there something wrong,’” DeVries recalls.

He works hard daily on physical therapy exercises to maintain his level of movement.

“A lot of the focus has been on maintaining what he has. We’re not expecting to make a lot of progress in increasing range of motion but instead maintaining the motion he has,” said Lance Jongekrijg, physical therapist at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

In addition to physical therapy, his art has helped DeVries on his journey.  

“I had to learn abstract. Your 3-year-old child can’t do this,” DeVries said of his art.

DeVries always loved art but his diagnosis set his work on a different path.

“When I paint, I actually ignore my body. It won’t ignore me sometimes, ” DeVries said.

DeVries paints, but not with a paintbrush. Instead, he uses credit cards, gift cards and hotel keys.

For DeVries, painting is a hobby and a form of therapy that’s helping him hold on to the muscle power needed to make his art.

“If my arms give out, I’m going to put the card between my toes and do it on the floor while sitting. I mean, I will not quit,” DeVries said.

DeVries’ work has been in ArtPrize and featured at the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Some of his art can be found online.

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