Faces of ALS: Hope Through Painting

Ashley RosenbrockFaces of ALS, Home Page

Please join us at the Hope Through Caring Gala on Saturday, Feb. 18, where Ken and his wife Ann, award honorees Brian Wallach & Sandra Abrevaya and First Bank Chicago, and people living with ALS will be our guests of honor. By attending the Hope Through Caring Gala, you make it possible for the Les Turner ALS Foundation to fund ALS research and clinical care and provide education and support. 

Ken Avick picked up a brush and began painting as a child, and he hasn’t set it down since. In the beginning, he leaned towards large canvases with surreal imagery. Following the birth of his own children, he started to incorporate them into his paintings.

“Two of my children have autism and developmental delays,” says Ken. “The paintings imagine how they view the world, using a metaphor of mountains, vivid colors, and placing them in this surreal environment.”

After retiring in 2003, Ken began painting full time and became a member of Space 900 Gallery, an artist cooperative in Evanston, IL. His work has attracted media attention for its use of vivid colors, added texture and homemade frames with irregular sides.

One day, he noticed his hand unintentionally shaking while he was holding a plate.

“Then I started to notice increased weakness in my entire left arm. After months of testing, I was formally diagnosed with ALS in May 2022,” says Ken. “This news was devastating to me and my family.”

Ken was referred to the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, where he was introduced to Julie Stowell, RN, an ALS support services coordinator with the Les Turner ALS Foundation.

“Over our time working together, Julie has advised me on how to plan ahead for my future needs, how to deal with specific medical issues, who to contact to get immediate and long-term help, how to get transportation to and from appointments, and more,” says Ken.

The Foundation’s support groups have meant a lot to both Ken and his wife Ann, who is now his caregiver.

“Without Ann’s help, I could not remain at home or have the same joy in my life,” says Ken. “As expected, the caregiving is hard on her body and her mind. The services provided by the Foundation have helped us make good decisions and let us know where to go and how to obtain help.”

Ken has found that his ALS-affected abilities can vary from day to day. He plans for the worst but does all he can to maintain the best. By letting others know that he has ALS, he has received support, understanding and affection.

“When I want to display my artwork at our gallery shows, my fellow artists help me by hanging my artwork for me,” says Ken. “I can no longer do the same kind of art I used to do, like painting on large canvases. I now paint on paper rather than canvas on stretchers, and I produce much smaller works that I paint on at my desk. I have to work this way because I can’t lift heavier surfaces or stand for long periods, and I can no longer walk to the second floor of our house, which used to be my studio.

“As someone who has long believed that life isn’t fair, I haven’t dwelt on ‘why me’? My focus has been on how to make the best of my situation. We still see our two younger children regularly on weekends, and my older daughter visits regularly from St. Louis. My sister is also planning a family reunion in Chicago. I am looking forward to that!”

You can own one of Ken’s paintings and support the ALS community and people living with ALS. We are thrilled that one of Ken’s paintings will be up for auction at the Hope Through Caring Gala on Saturday, Feb. 18. Register for the Gala and learn more about the auction by visiting hopethroughcaring.org. As always, people living with ALS and a plus one receive complimentary tickets.