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Issue Date: December 2009

The Artist: Linda Armstead-Perry, Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Jennifer Keirn
Linda Armstead-Perry’s battle with multiple sclerosis forced her to retire from her job driving for RTA in 2006. Her muscle weakness and fatigue made driving a bus difficult, but Armstead-Perry knew she still had a contribution to make.

“I started getting into a drudge,” the 53-year-old Shaker Heights grandmother says. “I realized, I can’t work right now, but maybe I can offer something.”

An amateur artist, Armstead-Perry approached the Mount Pleasant Club of Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland about volunteering with its art programming. They showed her the art room — being used at the time as storage — and told her there was no instructor and, thus, no arts program.

So Armstead-Perry created one. Despite needing a walker, she spent last winter and spring cleaning the art room, stocking it with supplies and foraging at library sales for art books. Her mobility improved right along with her art program, and by June, Armstead-Perry was ready to teach art four days a week for the club’s summer camp and move about without even a cane.

“Nowadays I still have some weakness, but most people wouldn’t recognize it,” she says. “My doctor basically gave me a prescription to keep doing art.”

Armstead-Perry now teaches art after school each week for 20 to 30 children and adults between the ages of 6 and 18. She brings in visiting artists and puts on an art show with students’ work. “They do more for me than I could ever do for them,” she says. “This gave me the energy I needed to come back alive.”

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