Steve & his Mom
The Tom Museum
If schizophrenia carries the stigma of criminal violence, then Steve Smith is the anti-schizophrenic. I first met Steve when I attended the Schizophrenia Conference at the University of Pittsburgh. Steve came up and introduced himself to my daughter, Tracy, after our presentation about her story at the conference.
Steve invited us to a showing at the Tom Museum on Saturday evening. The unique characteristic that identifies the Tom Museum is that it occupies the inside of the residence of Tom Sarver, a puppeteer, and is associated with The Mattress Factory which is quite a strange name for an art gallery. Tracy and I got the rather complicated directions to the gallery and proceeded to find our way there.
We arrived at the location, an incredibly narrow, difficult-to-find nearly alley-like street somewhere between the football stadium and the national aviary in a very old section of Pittsburgh. What we found was one of the most unique art experiences that anyone could hope for. Steve was there, accompanied by his mother, and I was so taken by the creativeness of his vision of art that I bought Baby Jonathon as a gift for my wife.
Over the course of the evening, I met many friends of Steve and had the chance to get to know both he and his mother, Mary. In previous travels I have gone to both Paris and Barcelona and had the opportunity to visit museums of the famed artist Pablo Picasso. Quite frankly, at the time, the art confused me. In this case, getting to know Steve and viewing what were his expressions of his world gave me new insight into how perceptions of artists are expressed though their chosen media.
Steve’s art comes from his expression of his family and personal experiences and started in 1986 while sketching on the back of a test paper while studying journalism. It is that sometimes innocent expression of creativity that someone notices that can inspire and open the door for others to see a view of the world that deserves sharing.
Steve and I exchanged phone numbers and have stayed in contact. Baby Jonathon hangs in my wife’s office where I can gaze and appreciate the expression of an artist’s view of the world.
Steve continues to work with his art. As I write this, he is preparing to finish his college degree and graduate. His art is posted in a gallery and he has illustrated a book. Every time I call, he answers in a most kind manner and he always sends his blessings, ever the anti-schizophrenic. When asked how he is doing, Steve will answer, “Just fine, I had to get an operation because I will need to undergo dialysis, but I am fine. You have a wonderful day. God Bless.”
If anyone is inclined to use a stereotype to gauge the measure of a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, they should meet Steve. It will brighten their day. It has brightened many of mine.
God Bless You, Steve.
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