All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for April 2004

Local Artist Inspires with Her Work, Courage

April 29, 2004
Kristin Goble
The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA

Pamela Winslow has multiple sclerosis , but it hasn't kept her artistic juices from flowing.

The creative career of this 54-year-old Norfolk native has included acting and designing sets and costumes . Winslow's speciality is fiber assemblage, which combines painting with attaching fabrics to canvas.

For the last 17 years, Winslow has worked out of a studio at the d'Art Center in downtown Norfolk. Her mother, Helen Malcolm Pine, worked beside her at d'Art until retiring last year at the age of 81.

Winslow, who grew up in the Edgewater section of Norfolk, started acting in performances at age 10 at the Little Theatre of Norfolk.

By the time she entered high school, she aspired to be an actress, but a trip to England changed her mind. She visited a costume exhibit at the Royal Shakespeare Company and discovered another side of theater.

Winslow has gone on to create costumes and sets for large-scale musicals to small plays. Budgets have been carte blanche to bare bones.

"You do as best you can, you call on your creative skills and your making-do skill," said Winslow.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 23 while still in college at the Fashion Institute of America in Atlanta. At first, she thought that her life was ruined , but just as quickly discovered it wasn't.

"There are so many things that are positive that came out of something so devastating," she said. "Of course, you hit the wall occasionally."

MS has left her almost blind in her right eye and she occasionally slurs her speech or the words come out in the wrong order. To that, she laughs "I've been accused of being drunk sometimes."

But it's also led to utter some creative spoonerisms, such as turning "box of chocolates" into "chox of boxlettes."

"I've come out with some really fascinating ones," she said.

To all of Winslow's creativity, now add role modeling and mentoring.

In early 2003, Martha Rogers, a Norfolk Collegiate teacher, had heard about Winslow after her art was displayed at the Sacred Heart Church in Ghent. Eleanor Powell, who organized the exhibit, put Rogers in touch with Winslow, and Rogers asked her to speak at Collegiate's "Conversations Program."

As a coincidence, Winslow was a 1967 graduate of Collegiate.

Winslow was one of a handful of area residents who spoke about how they had overcome difficulties and disabilities to become successful business people.

The high school students, teachers and parents had to read the book "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," by Jean-Dominique Bauby. He was an editor of a French magazine until he suffered a massive stoke that left him with Locked-In Syndrome - an active mind in a paralyzed body. Only able to blink his left eye, he produced a memoir using a blinking code system.

Winslow learned, too. She was captivated by Bauby's memoir, she said, adding "It's the most absorbing (writing). I opened the book and never put it down again, it's fascinating."

She also found the "Conversations Program" very rewarding and a "wonderful opportunity" to reconnect with Norfolk Collegiate.,

Little did she know what a connection she made. Rogers, the teacher who had recruited Winslow , has recently discovered that she, too, has multiple scleroris. The two have become close friends and Winslow has become Rogers' mentor.

Winslow has continued to help her alma mater. She donated a beautiful fiber assemblage, "Frigiliana," of a scene she once visited in Europe, Rogers said. It hangs in Collegiate's front office.

She's also helped out at the school's "Career Day" program.

"She's just been so helpful to the school and me personally," Rogers said.

Copyright © 2004, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA