Mt. Lebanon woman’s artwork to help fund fight against Parkinson’s

Old doors with painted scenes and a number of her colorful craft works will be available


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Within one year of each other, in 2004 and 2005, Kim Cagni and Dan McCarthy were diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's disease. Then in their 40s, they had been friends since Ms. Cagni and Mr. McCarthy's wife worked together at The Pittsburgh Press in the 1980s.

But their shared affliction has created another layer of bonding in a new campaign to raise consciousness and funding for research. Both said they believe it isn't currently sufficient to find a cure, or at least more proactive treatments, for what Ms. Cagni calls "daily neurological combat."

Their first fundraiser in a campaign to fund a cure begins with an art show and sale at 7 p.m. today at Bicycle Heaven in Chateau.

Old doors that Ms. Cagni covered with painted scenes and a number of her colorful craft works will be available. Proceeds will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Mr. Fox, the actor who rose to fame from the 1980s sit-com "Family Ties," was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's at age 30.

The art show is free and open to the public. Bicycle Heaven is at 1800 Preble Ave., across Columbus Avenue from the Manchester Craftsman's Guild. The entrance is in a parking lot at the corner of Columbus and Metropolitan Street.

Ms. Cagni and her husband, Bill Young, had collected old doors over the years, and they appealed to her as a canvas. Asked if their use borrows from the metaphor for opportunity, she said "Yeah, there are many meanings."

Mr. McCarthy, who encouraged her to show and sell her work and is working on the marketing end, said another advantage to painting doors is that they come "already framed."

Ms. Cagni credits him with the idea to use her art for fundraising. It was already her outlet for emotional healing after her diagnosis ended her career as a flight attendant.

"At first I was bitter," she said, "but a good way out of that is to make art. Danny said, 'We're going to run with this and we're going to make a difference.'"

"I wasn't doing anything to bring awareness to this disease," said Mr. McCarthy, a partner and CEO of Vista Window Co. who also has an art background. "But when I saw the doors Kim was doing and some of her other art work, it inspired me to start brainstorming on how we could bring her art to the masses and raise money for Parkinson's at the same time.

"We are working on a two-pronged approach, starting with selling as much art as we can and raising as much money as we can to continue to sell as much art as we can and keep raising money for research. If we can generate enough interest and capital, we want to put together a common site where artists can market their art and agree to giving 15-20 percent," for Parkinson's. "We have so many artist friends whose ears perk up when they hear what we're doing."

Parkinson's disease causes degeneration in the brain that leads to tremors and muscle rigidity.

"Everyone has common symptoms, but they affect people in different ways," Mr. McCarthy said.

Mr. Young said the key to finding "something different than the therapies there are now will be driven by research. All the current therapies are oriented around the symptoms: stopping tremors, making walking easier, unfreezing the foot. But none of it gets to heart of issue, the problem with the brain and the development of dopamine.

"We think it's a question of funding and priorities," he said. "We want to get the profile up higher. Our next step will be to acquire some space and market [art] in a more significant way."


Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com. Read her blog at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.

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