Success Stories

Personal Stories of Recovery

Weekly visits to BLOOM special time for mother, son 

For many of its admirers, art's powerful imagery can often leave them speechless.

For Ruby Homsi and Mahmoud Hussein, no words are needed.

Their communication can be felt in the teamwork they demonstrate as Mahmoud carefully examines the exterior of a pear-shaped gourd, surveying the cured surface that will soon be his canvas. Ruby subtly offers a prompt when needed to reclaim her son’s attention from the ambient bustle inside BLOOM Collaborative’s Carriage House Studio.

“C’mon, we don’t have all day,” Ruby says, causing a faint smile to emerge on Mahmoud’s face.

“This is our best time,” says Ruby, who emigrated from Syria in 1975 and spends each Tuesday and Thursday at BLOOM’s open studio with her son painting, carving and engraving visual representations of their joint efforts. “It’s really something to look forward to every week.”

That something had previously been difficult to come by.

Mahmoud, 22, has autism and is limited in his verbal capabilities. Finding a setting where he could bond over a shared interest with his mother that could also accommodate his needs often proved a challenge for Ruby.

That is until she heard about BLOOM, a location, she found, that would not only support Mahmoud’s unique needs but nurture his creativity. Since hearing of BLOOM’s open studio hours, they have been regulars of the event, rarely missing a chance to share their passion.

At BLOOM, Mahmoud and Ruby work in unison to create, paint and produce pieces that help promote their relationship while they learn about one another through the art.

“We had gotten to where I was really more of a nagging mom,” Ruby says of their relationship before they started going to BLOOM. “Here, we more co-operate. I’ll show him how to choose a brush, clean a brush and where to paint, and he’ll go from there.”

Ruby and Mahmoud use a variety of mediums, but nowhere are their skills as evident as in their work on their signature creation: gourds. Such extravagant, ornate figures are Ruby and Mahmoud’s works that they have earned them the distinction of BLOOM’s resident gourd expert.

Ruby and Mahmoud alternate performing the carving, drawing, painting and engraving steps until they agree upon a final product, one that suitably mirrors their effort.

 “It’s really fun for a parent to do something productive and fun with their child,” Ruby says. “He’s happy here because he gets to see the finished product, he’s praised for his work and feels appreciated.”

Those finished works have sold at BLOOM’s gallery, the Barber National Institute’s spring art show and are on display at LECOM.

In producing art, Ruby notes, Mahmoud is not only able to satisfy his need for stimulation, but express himself in a way that comes naturally and is authentic.

“Any kind of art is self-stimulation,” Ruby says. “That’s a good thing because it takes something that is seen as a symptom of the diagnosis and makes it into a positive. And it makes it into a creative and accepted product.”

Ruby’s experience with art dates back to her painting with her mother as a child. And a similar collaboration with Mahmoud manages to form a seamless union by uniting their analytic and artistic styles.

While Mahmoud’s sense of color and meticulous attention to detail are evident in his work— Ruby cites the burned engraving as Mahmoud’s favorite step—it is his ability to recognize and properly portray facial expressions that stands out in his art.

“It is remarkable for someone with autism,” she says. “Normally people don’t recognize the expressions.”

Perhaps the most telling expression, though, is the smile Ruby and Mahmoud display as they leave the studio.

“I like working with him a lot,” Ruby says. “It brings us together.”

Below are works that Ruby and Mahmoud have completed while working together at BLOOM

"Stairways helped me to work on recovery, one step at a time." -Ron S

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