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The Pearls are Cast
The Pearls are Cast
Residents and patients of Bailey-Boushay House contribute to Pigs on Parade

by Lynn Dixon - SGN Contributing Writer

Most pigs feed the human body. A few special ones, like Babe or Wilbur from Charlotte's Web, feed the spirit. The Pearls Are Cast does a little of both.

The Pearls Are Cast is one of a hundred pigs featured in this year's Pigs on Parade, part of Pike Place Market's Centennial celebration. This weekend, after a summer spent bathing in the adoration of tourists and locals alike, the pigs will be pulled from the city's sidewalks in preparation for the Pigs on Parade Auction on October 12.

All pig proceeds benefit the Market Foundation which raises money for four human service agencies in Pike Place Market, including a food bank. These agencies serve the downtown community's most vulnerable members: the ill, elderly and poor.

That makes it all the more poignant that one of the pigs was created and donated by an equally vulnerable group: those affected with HIV and AIDS.

For the second time-the first in 2001-residents and day patients at Bailey-Boushay House contributed their time and talent to Pigs on Parade. For several hours a week, from January to April, participants in Bailey-Boushay House's art program collaborated with artist-in-residence Ross Palmer Beecher to create The Pearls Are Cast.

"It's a great fit for us and our clients love doing it," says Bailey-Boushay House's Executive Director Brian Knowles of Pigs on Parade.

Knowles points out that Bailey-Boushay House's clients overlap with those of the Market's human service agencies. Several clients of the Adult Day Health Care program live downtown and receive care from the Pike Market Medical Clinic.

"Bailey-Boushay House has a very deep connection with the Market," Knowles says.

The Pearls Are Cast is inspired by the Chinese astrological calendar. When Beecher discovered in January that 2007 is the Chinese Year of the Pig she knew she'd hit upon the pig's theme.

"It's a great idea for us because we're so diverse and the Chinese horoscope has something for everyone," she says.

Beecher's clients are from "all walks of life." Many face multiple challenges in addition to their HIV/AIDS status such as homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness.

The pig features a roulette wheel made up of the Chinese animal zodiacs and a checkerboard design on its face, legs and underbelly. Beecher says it was the perfect project for her group which includes trained and self-taught artists as well as art novices.

"There was something for everyone to do on the pig," she says. "Somebody who'd never painted in their life could do the broad coat. Somebody else could do the solid area of the animal; another client could help me draw the animal."

The group supported each other throughout the process, jumping to the aid of any member who expressed frustration or difficulty executing some aspect of the pig.

"They all wanted the pig to be good," Beecher says. "It gave them a sense of pride and pride gives them a sense of community." Garnett Brooks, who attends the day program at Bailey-Boushay House, initially wanted nothing to do with the pig. Brooks, a forty-five-year-old former bartender and nightclub manager, had recently been forced into retirement by his disability. He preferred solo art projects and was fed-up with the amount of space the life-size fiberglass pig occupied in the studio.

"I was so busy with my own medical condition, I saw the pig as a nuisance," Brooks says.

Then one day, he offhandedly suggested how the pig might be improved by adding texture to the animal figures. "I made the mistake of making a suggestion," he jokes.

Brooks, who has some painting experience, found himself drawn into the project. He experimented with texture and color, applying 600 brushstrokes to the monkey zodiac to get the desired effect. He discovered a much easier technique using an artificial duster to dapple paint onto the pig's surface.

"This project brought me out of my shell and moved me forward as an artist," Brooks says.

He now applies the skills he learned from working on the pig to his own work with ceramics. He feels pride in The Pearls Are Cast and in contributing to a project that benefits others. The pig, he says, is a gift from "community to community."

Stories like Brooks' are a testimony to the healing powers of creativity and the reason Bailey-Boushay House continues to offer art therapy, Knowles says.

"It gives clients a chance to show their individuality so that they're not just another number in the system or another ?sick patient." Bailey-Boushay's artist-in-residence program began thirteen years ago as a six-month trial run. Beecher's been running it ever since. She doesn't have an art therapy degree, just a "good counter manner," she says, and plenty of compassion.

Beecher is a professional artist represented by the prestigious Greg Kucera gallery and best-known for her metalwork quilts. One of her pieces is on permanent display at the Seattle Art Museum. She says she gets back as much from her clients as she gives.

"I learn so much from their innovation and creativity. One thing about when you're in dire straights; you make art out ?of anything."

Beecher says that a few years ago she'd only get to know clients in the end stages of their lives. Now, with new drugs to treat AIDS, some of her clients have been coming to Bailey-Boushay House for years.

Bailey-Boushay's first porcine creation, Pride Pig, fetched $3,000 at the 2001 auction. This year's artists hope The Pearls Are Cast will raise even more money for the Market Foundation.

The Pearls Are Cast has fed the spirit. Now it's time for this pig to bring home the bacon.
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