Royal OakNovember 7, 2011
Gallery hosts first public exhibit of Konstantinov’s artwork
By Heidi Roman
C & G Staff Writer
It’s a sports memory that turns any Detroiter solemn.
Not long after the Red Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup, a limousine carrying two local hockey legends and a masseur crashed into a tree in the Woodward Avenue median on June 13, forever changing the lives of its occupants and the memories of the season’s victory.
Since the tragic accident, Vladimir Konstantinov has made appearances at hockey games, but has mostly lived under the radar as he copes with his traumatic brain injury and changed life.
So most fans wouldn’t know that, in that time, Konstantinov, a feared defenseman on the ice, has become an artist — his paintbrush expressing things his once-powerful body no longer can.
On Nov. 17, the public will have a rare opportunity to view and purchase some of his original work during the “Animals and Inspirations” exhibit at Gallery U and Boutique in Royal Oak.
“His family’s been very private, and this is his first public exhibit,” said Barbara Hill, an occupational therapist and vocational director for the gallery who has worked directly with Konstantinov. “We’ve been working with him on how to display (his art), frame it and title it.”
The event will feature 42 pieces of Konstantinov’s artwork, including watercolors and collages of animals and people.
“Vladimir had an art interest, and his doctor recommended us,” Hill said.
Gallery U was spawned from Universal Institute and Therapeutic Rehabilitation Center, a Troy facility that works with clients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and neurological impairments, preparing them to re-enter the workforce and learn job skills.
Clients create art as part of their therapy and operate the gallery in a vocational program. The gallery on Fourth Street sells artwork, jewelry, furniture and functional pieces.
“About 95 percent of the work we sell is created by clients with traumatic brain injury,” said Ashley Cook, a vocational rehabilitation technician at the gallery. “Sometimes a client comes in and they’ve never made art before. It gives them an opportunity to express themselves.”
Art teaches the clients confidence, decision making, problem solving and planning. Cook also helps them photograph their work for a professional portfolio, title it, describe it and work on their resume.
The lessons continue at the gallery, where they manage the budget, set up the displays, handle day-to-day business operations and organize exhibits.
Konstantinov’s exhibit will be run almost entirely by clients from Universal Institute, and other clients’ work will be featured at the event. The preparations are similar to those involved in planning a wedding, Hill said.
Hill said Gallery U’s concept is entirely new and is one of the most exciting projects she’s been involved with in her 23 years in therapy.
Sometimes a client just needs therapy to get re-introduced into the career they had before their injury, but other times, they’ll require an entirely new career track.
“If (patients) weren’t rejoining their place of work, they had nowhere to go,” Hill said.
Universal Institute offers many vocational options besides the gallery, including automotive, clerical, woodworking and computer lessons.
Gallery U has been open for about a year and has had several big exhibits, but Konstantinov’s will likely draw the largest crowd.
For privacy purposes, Hill isn’t able to discuss Konstantinov’s status in treatment, but she said he is making progress.
“Even after all this time, the power in this man is amazing,” Hill said.
Though many guests at the exhibit will likely come just to see the hockey hero, she hopes people are there equally for his art and to support the gallery’s work.
“The ultimate goal is it goes well, and he wants to continue to do these shows maybe a couple times a year,” Hill said.
All of Konstantinov’s work has been autographed, and those who purchase a piece of art will be permitted to take a photo with him.
The work will all remain on display throughout the course of the evening, and patrons will be asked to pick up their purchase after the event is complete.
Proceeds from the sales will go to the Michigan Brain Injury Association.
The “Animals and Inspiration” exhibit featuring Konstantinov’s work will be 7-9 p.m. Nov. 17 at Gallery U and Boutique. Admission is free.
Gallery U is located at 310 W. Fourth St., next to the Royal Oak Music Theatre, in Royal Oak. The gallery is open from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.
For more information, call the gallery at (248) 399-7322.
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