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Lynchburg Exhibit Features Portraits of Virginians Who Died from Drug Addiction

Into Light
Teresa Clower
The artist's son, Devin, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 32.

Three years ago, Teresa Clower’s son Devin died of an accidental drug overdose. To work through her grief, she returned to art -- something she had not done since college.

“I had not picked up a pencil in 45 years," she recalls. "I honestly do believe it’s a gift from my son Dev.”

Sara Sapanara
Teresa Clower
Sara Sapanara, another Virginian who died of a drug overdose

After drawing his portrait, she decided to draw others who suffered from addiction

“The goal of this project is to humanize this disease and to help to erase the stigma of drug addiction," she explains. "It’s not a moral failing. It is a disease, and every single person in all of our exhibits suffered and worked very hard in most cases to overcome it. There’s a connection – an emotional connection – that I have with every single person that I draw, and it’s through their eyes, that I really feel their energy, their soul.”

Sean Hulihan
Teresa Clower
Another Virginian who suffered from drug addiction -- Sean Hulihan

So far she’s completed 250 portraits and held shows in five states:

“Virginia is our fifth state now after Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Next year we’ll be in California and Florida," Clower says. "We reach out to support groups, we reach out to faith communities, and we of course use a lot of social media, and families who have lost a loved one in that particular state to drug addiction are asked to submit information. From that we write the narrative. I have a writer who donates her time to this project, and then three photographs are submitted.”

She calls it Into Light – a name suited to her drawings in black, white and shades of gray.

Teresa Clower
The artist will share this portrait of Devon Howard with his family when the show closes in mid-November.

“No one should be judged by their darkest moments, and these people who are in the exhibition in Virginia were people who were very much loved and very loving.”

The University of Lynchburg show runs through November 12th. On the 13th, Clower will send framed portraits to the families of those she drew.

For more information, go to https://www.lynchburg.edu/news/2021/09/daura-museum-exhibits-shed-light-on-drug-addiction-domestic-violence/

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.