ARLINGTON >> 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 to a person who was steadily losing his cognitive powers. Tom had been a successful city planner in New York City for 34 years. His was a warm and outgoing personality and in retirement in Vermont he had enthusiastically enjoyed hiking and fishing and the great outdoors. All of this had greatly diminished with Alzheimer's, until he was introduced to making art. And that gift is the subject of the new exhibit at the Canfield Gallery opening Saturday, September 10 from 3 p.m. to 5 with a reception hosted by Tom's widow, Julie Hutchinson-Smith.
Visitors to this show will see many of the more than one hundred watercolor paintings Tom created before he died in April 2016, as well as several paintings by his art "teacher," Russ Housman of Sunderland, an artist in his own right and a well known art therapist. [Note: Russ Housman was also the founder of the Canfield Gallery when the new Martha Canfield Library was built on East Arlington Road.] Tom's amazingly beautiful abstract watercolors will give viewers an intimate view of the healing power of art – even in the most difficult circumstances. 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.'"
The paintings in the memorial exhibit will not be for sale, as the family understandably wishes to keep them. But they will be on view during library hours at the Martha Canfield Library in Arlington from Sept. 2 to 28. The Housman Charitable Foundation and the members of Tom Smith's extended family are making a memorial contribution to the library to honor Tom, and the public is invited to make a donation as well. For more information and library hours, call the library at 802-375-6153 or visit the library's website at Martha_Canfield_Library.org.