Reno Epilepsy Patients Find Peace Through Art


Patients create heartfelt drawings as part of the first Studio E Project in Reno.

Some artists choose to paint or draw their personal lives onto a canvas, creating works that reflect life-changing events or important reflections. For a group of Reno epilepsy patients that idea of “life begets art” is alive and well with new works they recently created.

Local residents with epilepsy gave artistic voice to their condition as part of Studio E: The Epilepsy Art Therapy Program, which took place at VSA Nevada at the Lake Mansion on Aug. 23. The results were bold and expressive — no matter the age or skill level.

“Art therapy gives them community, a chance to connect with other people like them,” says Lacey Bitko, a visiting art therapist from Washington, D.C., who led Studio E in Reno. “For others, it can be a tool to help process things when they get overwhelming.”

Here’s a look at some of the artists and the work they created during the 90-minute session.

epilepsy-art-event-kimKim Evans was born with epilepsy. She brought her family with her to participate in the Studio E project. Her drawing shows a camping scene, something close to her heart. “Camping is my serenity,” she says. “I love to be outdoors, and it’s where I find peace with my epilepsy.”



epilepsy-art-event-kylieKylie McPeak, age 10, created more than one drawing, including the fun butterfly-meets-fairy she proudly presents in this photo. Kylie, who has suffered from epilepsy for six years, loves to color. “It really helps her escape from her symptoms,” says her father, Steven. Her mother, Gina, adds that art is “a positive way for Kylie to express herself, and it also shows us what she is like mood-wise.”

epilepsy-art-event-timTim Driscoll worked on a symbolic piece that he plans to finish at home. The vertical black line represents July 1, the day he suffered a grand mal seizure after experiencing several smaller seizures the previous three years. His life before and after July 1 will be represented on either side of that line — for instance, he will place a bike on the top right-hand side since he can no longer drive a car. Tim believes the art is a great help with his frustrations concerning epilepsy. “It was great to meet other people here,” he adds. “Art is a good forum to express yourself and talk about this, the struggle to deal with everything.”

epilepsy-art-event-laurenLauren Mannikko, age 16, chose to personalize one of the designs created by the therapists. She really likes this drawing because it shows the heart and brain working together. She had a grand mal seizure at 13 after suffering from less severe seizures during her childhood. And, she loves art. “I really got into it, and it keeps me relaxed,” she enthuses. “It relieves the stress from having epilepsy.”

epilepsy-art-event-mattMatt Ernst also chose to add his own touch to the drawing that represents the fragility of the brain.  Matt experienced late-onset epilepsy after suffering several concussions. But he doesn’t want to give up what makes him happy in life, including travel — he actually made a recent trip to Newfoundland. “I just need to keep up my RPM, keep my motor running,” he says with a smile.


  1. Art unites people and gives people license to express themselves individually. I suppose in a way the same can be said of challenges like epilepsy--it unites people and yet each experience and each expression of that experience--is unique. Keep up the good work