Fundraiser for the Unsteady Hand artist collective supporting people with Parkinson’s disease, 7 p.m. Saturday, Art 111 Gallery & Art Supply, 111 E. Bijou St., free, theunsteadyhand.org
After experiencing a persistent tremor in his hand, Mo Onstad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 48, considered early onset for the incurable progressive nervous system disorder, which can affect a person’s movement.
Most people who develop the disease are 60 and older. Singer Linda Ronstadt, for example, was diagnosed at age 67. But actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 29. An estimated 1 million people in the United States and 10 million worldwide have the disease, which can strike at any time, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Colorado Springs native Onstad, now 50, wants to tap art and fellowship to brighten the lives of other people with Parkinson’s in the Pikes Peak region.
“My experience is: It sucks to have Parkinson’s, but it’s not the end of the world,” he said.
He started The Unsteady Hand artist collective to bring together Parkinson’s sufferers and has applied for nonprofit status. A fundraiser, Shake, Rattle, Be Whole, is at 7 p.m. Saturday at downtown Colorado Springs’ Art 111 Gallery & Art Supply. All are welcome. The evening will feature the band Juannah, wine, cupcakes, basket raffles, children’s activities, information about The Unsteady Hand and Parkinson’s resources.
Onstad said it’s going to be a party atmosphere.
“I don’t want it to be just a bunch of people with Parkinson’s. We have support groups for that,” he said. “I’m trying to set up something that’s sustainable, so when I’m not able to do it — which could be five years with this disease, or it could be 40 — it will continue on. It’s just so important because people with Parkinson’s have it pretty rough.”
Onstad, who works in case management for The Resource Exchange, saw a need for the arts-focused organization in Colorado Springs and wants to expand it to the entire Front Range and the rest of Colorado.
“Then, within five years, I’d like it to go national. This is big. It’s not just Colorado Springs. I’m expecting this to blow up.”
He mobilized a board whose members are his mother, artist and art therapist Cathleen Meadows; Steve Peters, a local with Parkinson’s; physical therapist Emily Moncheski; and Amanda Stoke, co-owner of Art 111 Gallery & Art Supply, which is donating space for Saturday’s event. They’re searching for one more board member.
Peters agreed that Colorado Springs needs The Unsteady Hand.
“People with Parkinson’s here kind of stay inside and don’t talk about the disease. We’re trying to work with people and get them involved — for the social part of it and also so they share their experience and ask questions. It’s a way to forget about stuff for a little bit,” he said. “Plus making art is a way to express yourself.”
Many Parkinson’s organizations focus on exercise, which is known to slow the progress of the disease.
Onstad said, “I learned that what we really need is art.”
A gofundme campaign raised $1,500 for The Unsteady Hand’s startup costs. Its website, theundsteadyhand.org, and its Facebook page, facebook.com/events/261941931229625/, have attracted visitors from around the globe.
Onstad plans an official launch for The Unsteady Hand during Arts Month in October, with the start of regular classes and creativity labs. Also planned is a show of works by group members.