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‘Chrissy’s PAW’some Art’ at the Lodge

Art is doggone good. Just ask painter Christine (Chrissy) Hamscher and Sadie, an adorable Marshmallow - a breed that is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix - who is her certified emotional support animal.

While Hamscher is the artist, so too is Sadie, as her canine creativity is featured with Hamscher’s in “Chrissy’s PAW’some Art Exhibit” in the Cappuccino Room of Café the Lodge, a division of Resources for Human Development, Inc., Southside Bethlehem. The two-month exhibit wraps up Aug. 31.

Café the Lodge at 427 E. Fourth St. is a full-service café that employs people in recovery from mental health challenges, and displays artwork from artists in recovery. It opened on a Leap Day in 2012.

“I’m an advocate for fighting against the stigma of mental health diagnosis,” Hamscher said. “I’m a person with lived experience,” she said, in regard to mental health challenges. “Everyone is in a different point in their mental health journey.”

Hamscher especially likes something Kevin McCabe, assistant director of Café the Lodge, said: “We’re in the same storm, the same boat, working together as a team.”

Hamscher began painting in 2003 in college when she attended the Baum School of Art, Allentown, through Lehigh Carbon Community College, where she was majoring in graphic design. “But then I found my passion was working with people,” she said of her decision to leave college.

Hamscher stopped painting around 2007, and life happened, as she worked in various non-art related jobs and married her husband, Dan. Years passed and the desire to paint resurfaced, and today Hamscher loves to paint in her spare time, as she finds it very relaxing and therapeutic. She often paints while listening to music or an audio book, sometimes with Sadie nearby.

She paints mostly with acrylics, though sometimes uses watercolor or oil.

“I find my inspiration for art in nature - nature has its natural beauty,” Hamscher said. “I also get my inspiration not only through nature, but also my husband Dan, as well. He supports me in my hobbies and my wellness.”

One of Hamscher’s most poignant and personal paintings is “The Hope Tree,” which she dedicated to her father, Dr. James W. Minekime, who has been fighting multiple myeloma since August 2020 and is now in remission. “I love you Dad, may they find a cure to this cancer and all cancers!” Hamscher wrote in the description. This painting is not for sale.

Hamscher has been on the staff of the Recovery Partnership at the Northampton County Drop-In Center since July 2011, and has been a certified peer specialist at Café the Lodge since June 2014.

“I love both jobs,” Hamscher said.

“Working in the community and also working on painting I’m not only doing what I love, but it also heals my mind, body and soul.”

“I use creating with some of the people I work with, especially at the Drop-In Center. I do projects with them - art projects get their creativity flowing. We have great discussions about artwork,” Hamscher said, adding they talk about how they decided to do their art project the way they did.

As a certified peer specialist at Café the Lodge, Hamscher works with people with mental health challenges. “Everyone has challenges throughout life,” she said. They have peer meetings, and Hamscher works with them to develop a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). She also takes them out into the community for activities, which sometimes could be going to the movies.

“I like both programs because they include everybody,” Hamscher said of her two jobs. “We’re a tight-knit community, very supportive of one another. We go through ups and downs like family.

“I have a passion for working with people, and being able to bring my dog to work is a plus,” Hamscher said, noting she often brings Sadie into work at the Northampton County Drop-In Center.

And just how does Sadie have her own artwork on exhibit? Hamscher explained each color of paint was carefully chosen by Sadie by Hamscher placing a treat in front of the different colors of paint. Sadie picked out at least two to three colors for the paintings. Hamscher poured each of the colors of paint on an 8-inch by 10-inch canvas and sealed it in a Ziploc bag.

“I then put Sadie’s favorite treats, food and or peanut butter on top of the Ziploc bag for her to lick off to create her masterpiece!” Hamscher said. “Sadie signed it with her paw print, reluctantly.”

When she’s not painting, five-year-old Sadie likes long walks in the park or neighborhood. She also likes pats on her belly and back, cuddle time, playtime, nap time, and of course, feeding time.

Hamscher noted one of her favorite quotes, “Pure love is the eagerness to give without receiving anything in return,” reminds her of Sadie.

Hamscher loves that Café the Lodge is breaking down barriers. She noted Café the Lodge’s website cafethelodge.org/ explains “It’s the guiding principle behind the Lodge - Fairweather Lodge Housing is named after psychologist George Fairweather, who found that patients with mental illness fared much better during recovery if they lived and worked together in a community … it’s community integration at its finest.”

“Chrissy is very talented. We love having her in our program, and she’s a valuable asset in the residential program,” McCabe said. “We hope she’s here for a long time.”

Hamscher’s paintings may be purchased through Café the Lodge, 610-419-3318, extension 4, through Aug. 31, and after that by contacting Hamscher, cminekime@yahoo.com.

PRESS PHOTOS BY TAMI QUIGLEY Christine Hamscher and Sadie, her registered Emotional Support Animal, enjoy a sun-dappled August morning on the terrace of Café the Lodge. Sadie's breed is called a Marshmallow, a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix.
Hamscher painted “Sadie's Portrait,” - which is not for sale as she painted it for her mother, Carol - with acrylic paints at Paint Your Pet Night at Out of Our Mind Art Studio, Macungie.