The Art of Clare

May 31, 2013

I’m not an art connoisseur. Can’t even draw good stick figures. Cameras make me nervous.

Most of my life, I thought art was optional, something for those in the elite class and the highest level obtainable on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I’ve tried climbing that pyramid Maslow identified as human motivators. Just when I’m ready to move up to the next level, I tumble back down into survival mode and start trying to get back up. Again.

It’s tough to appreciate Monet when you’re supporting a family of three on $800 a month or going to the cemetery to visit your deceased son.

The first indication that there’s more to art than I knew and that art affected my life more than I thought occurred the first time I visited the Louvre.  I was on my way to Algeria, researching the subject of terrorism.

As I stared, enraptured, at the original Mona Lisa my thinking went from It’s just oil on canvas to This is something bigger than me, something mystical, sublime, miraculous. Three times I tried walking away from the painting. It kept pulling me back, until it was ready to release me.

My next paradigm shift concerning art happened recently, after a friend called. She began talking to me about CLARE, a substance abuse program currently helping her daughter.

Just like with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I found myself pulled in, magnetized and drawn. Despite the surgeries, pain and work schedule I faced, I visited CLARE, interviewing the staff, touring the program and promising to write a blog about them.

While researching this blog, my art education continued. I learned that art can include making a coffee table, computer or founding a treatment center.  And it can be painting a portrait of a woman named Mona.

Art is what we imagine and then create. It has form and substance. It’s a way to communicate.

Art isn’t superfluous nor is it reserved for the elite.

An invention that meets an unmet need, a painting, book, movie or television series – all art. Art meets many needs. Comes in many forms. Art serves a purpose, no matter where we are on Maslow’s Hierarchy.

CLARE is art, surpassing one definition of the word offered by Guy Kawasaki:  “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning – to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”

Founded in 1970 from the vision of a small group of addicts who wanted to help homeless alcoholics on Venice Beach, CLARE — with the efforts of 67 staff members, 75 volunteers and 21 board members (and many friends and supporters) — now serves 30,000 adults and young people every year.

They offer referral services, in-house detox, long-term residential substance abuse treatment based on a combined 12 Step/Social model for men and CLARE offers separate residential treatment for women.

CLARE has several sober living centers, including one for women with children. They offer intensive outpatient treatment. They have Drug Court, drinking driver programs, and Clarity for Youth, an education and prevention program.

The cost of residential treatment at CLARE amounts to a modest $2,000 a month. For people highly-motivated to get clean and sober but without funds or insurance, CLARE offers full scholarships. As long as there’s money, they do anyway.

DeJuan “DJ” Verrett, part of CLARE’s staff and a California native, DJ spent 16 years, 10 months and 3 days of his 42-year- life in prison for drug-related charges. A life-awakening experience that occurred in prison motivated DJ to help others.

Now he strives to inspire people by example. He first became involved with CLARE as part of a speaking panel, then later as an intern while in school, before joining as a staff member.

DJ recently wrote and published a book he hopes will inspire people in any kind of prison of their own making to look inside and then recreate their lives. The book, An Inside Job: From Life in a Maze to an Amazing Life can be found at www.amazon.com/author/aninsidejob.

The most rewarding part of DJ’s work at CLARE is seeing clients take an active role in rescuing themselves. “But the most heartbreaking part of my job is telling potential clients that we can’t help them because of (lack of) funding,” DJ said.

A private non-profit, CLARE – like many other treatment programs – has had government financial contributions cut back annually, motivating them to raise the money themselves that they need.

So CLARE holds bake sales.

They host an annual Friends of CLARE Tribute Dinner. For their contributions to public education and raising consciousness, the November 2012 event honored Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, co-creators of Nurse Jackie and CLARE paid tribute to Maurice LaMarche, a two-time Emmy-winning voice actor.

Nurse Jackie, a story about the struggles of an addicted nurse as she hits bottom and then begins recovering, is a weekly television series.  Although billed as a comedy, this popular brilliantly written, acted, directed and produced show can as easily bring tears to viewers as it can provoke them to laughter.

This dinner raised $400,000. As with all funds CLARE’s efforts produce, 84 cents of each dollar goes directly to programs.

In their efforts to continue serving the community and growing, CLARE also holds silent auctions. This year’s 7th Annual Silent Auction will be held at the Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue in Santa Monica from 1 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 2nd.   Tickets cost $25 if purchased in advance; $30 at the door.

Auction art consists of contributions from gifted local artists: photographs, drawings and paintings done using water color, chalk, acrylics, oil or a combination of materials — even an unique IPhone picture done on aluminum.

The art also includes paintings by Meredith Baxter, a long-term CLARE supporter, and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Some of the art to be auctioned can be previewed at www.clarefoundation.org/arteventpresent.html.

Gift cards, televisions, and other items – all new — will also be offered at the silent auction.

While murmurs of funding increasing sometime in 2014 because Substance Abuse will take its rightful place on the list of ten essential health care benefits providers must offer under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, questions dim premature celebratory reactions.

Will insurance companies skillfully jump through the loophole of pre-existing conditions to avoid payment for substance abusers? If forced to pay for treatment, will insurance companies then dictate which treatment models must be used and the length (or brevity) of treatment?

A turning point occurred in 2012 when President Obama and other World Leaders met for a Summit, officially labeling the War on Drugs declared in 1970 by former President Richard M. Nixon a multi trillion dollar failure.

Until then, government’s part in this War has been to attack the supply side and increasingly ignore what people on the demand side need. Now empirical data shows that long-term treatment is more effective with addicts than 28-day treatment, and treatment less costly than imprisonment.

“CLARE? Yeah, I’ve heard of them. They’re great!” said one local woman who has been in recovery for 15 years.

“I respect CLARE. They’re good,” said Dr. Forest Tennant, a pain management and addictions specialist.

“I’m so grateful for CLARE. They’re affordable.   I trust them with my daughter’s life,” commented the mother of an addicted adult daughter in treatment as of the writing of this blog.

Not busy this weekend and live in SoCal?  Don’t live in the Los Angeles area but want to view some stunning artwork online? Need a place to send a loved one for substance abuse treatment?  Have an abundance and looking for a good charity to give a donation? Need an answer for friends who ask if you know about any good and affordable treatment centers?

CLARE.  Located at 909 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. You can visit them online at www.clarefoundation.org or call at 310-314-6200.

They’ve got a whole lot of art going on.

From the Desk of Melody Beattie

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