Hadley Ferguson is a Montana-based artist whose paintings and large-scale murals capture the collective power of personal stories. Her latest project is a collaboration with fellow artist Carolyn Maier and The Silver Foundation to show how Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects but does not define those living with it. In September, it will travel to the World Parkinson’s Congress.
Hadley’s dedication to highlighting PD and the importance of the patient voice springs from her own experience. Hadley lives with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) — a neurological disorder that affects movement and involuntary action such as digestion and blood pressure — after being initially misdiagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease. MSA and Parkinson’s share many motor symptoms, affecting balance and mobility.
After her diagnosis, Hadley saw a need for greater connection and sharing of resources, research opportunities and support for those with PD and other neurological disorders in Montana. She became involved with MJFF after attending a research information session and learning about how advances in PD research could translate into learnings for other neurological diseases.
This year, she decided to unite her artistic storytelling and work with the PD community through “Forging Resilience; Capturing Moments: Living Life with Parkinson’s,” an art installation that communicates the diverse stories and journeys of patients and families worldwide. The installation combines words and images gathered and assembled by her and Carolyn. A gallery of portraits and video surround a tree; its 4,000 leaves hold messages from people from 15 countries living with or touched by Parkinson's. After its premiere this May at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, it will travel to the fourth World Parkinson Congress from September 20 to 23, in Portland, Oregon.
Hadley shares that MSA has slowed her down physically, making such large-scale projects more challenging. Yet, it has not curbed her energy for building connections. She also co-founded Summit for Parkinson’s, a nonprofit that focuses on educating people living in rural areas and providing nurturing and adventure opportunities. She speaks to the importance of bringing people together, finding strength and joy in both her family and new friendships made as a result of her diagnosis. “Surrounding yourself with knowledge and people who can be supportive helps us all,” she says. “Together, we find new roles and resources for a life that is as fulfilled as possible.”
Interested in submitting a quote for the tree? Visit Forging Resilience to share your story.
Hadley and her daughter work on a mural celebrating women’s history.