Carmella's Story

Carmella’s Story

Living independently and expressing herself through art

There was a time in Carmella’s life when she was depressed, sad, and anxious due to abuse, neglect, and loss. Fortunately, those days are long behind her.

Her transformation to becoming a happy, confident, and successful woman began in 1983, when she entered HopeWell’s long-term residential program for adults with severe mental and physical disabilities, as well as behavioral issues.

“She’s come a long way,” says Kathy, who manages the HopeWell program. “She’s carved out a nice life.”

Now 66, Carmella has lived independently in the same Dexter Park apartment in Brookline the entire time she’s been in the program. HopeWell maintains two apartments in the building with three residents living in each, with the goal of providing a comfortable, family-like atmosphere. Kathy overseas the facilities and program administration, as well as each resident’s individual service plan.

HopeWell encourages its residents to pursue their unique interests, either on their own or through a partner organization. Carmella, who has loved art since she was a child, enjoys spending her days painting at Gateway Arts, a studio art center that helps talented adults with disabilities explore their creativity and hone their artistic skills.

“It keeps her happy,” says Kathy of Carmella’s interest in art, “It’s her therapy.”

Carmella expresses herself through her paintings, which clearly illustrate how much she has changed over the years. Kathy points out the stark contrast between three self-portraits Carmella painted in 2002, which show a woman crying, and a colorful, modern landscape she recently completed. Most of Carmella’s current paintings depict lively scenes of her beloved Brookline neighborhood.

Thanks to the instruction and support provided by the professional artists on staff at Gateway Arts, Carmella has even been able to turn her passion into a career. Her paintings are sought out by private collectors and have been exhibited in galleries from Newbury Street to Japan.

Living in Brookline allows Carmella and the other residents to have access to all of the conveniences of city living. She walks to Gateway Arts every morning, stopping at her favorite Dunkin’ Donuts along the way. Her routine also includes going grocery shopping on Fridays and to church on Sundays.

Carmella also has an active social life. She loves going to concerts, art galleries, museums, and parties with her friends. This past summer, she and her roommates took a vacation to Mystic, Connecticut, where they toured Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, and danced the night away at Legends in Concert at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

“Everyone loves Carmella!” says Kathy.

“She has freedom.”