Brushes and Brookies: Art and Healing on the Fly

Jessica Callihan grew up fishing on her family’s dairy farm in Southern Michigan, an upbringing familiar to us here in Middleburg- pastoral landscapes, wildlife, and ‘one stoplight’ towns. But Jessica had her sights set high, and she worked hard towards becoming an Aviation Electrician with the United States Navy. That’s when fate intervened.

During a training exercise while on active duty, Jessica fell approximately 10 feet and sustained permanent nerve damage to her extremities. In between surgeries and being confined to a hospital, Jessica’s was given a set of pastels. Jessica began recreating fishing and pastoral works in earnest. Her first pastel pieces got her, well, “hooked.”

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Jessica Callihan,  A Time For Reflections, pastel on panel 11 x 14 inches. Private Collection.

While exploring art as a way to relieve the pain and frustration of her arduous recovery, a group called Project Healing Waters found her and taught her how to tie flies, cast a rod, and fish with her disabilities.

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“The program gave me so much more than the sport of fly fishing; it gave me a community that became extended family and ultimately gave me beauty back in life.” -Jessica Callihan

Determined to grow despite setbacks that would challenge even the most disciplined individuals, Jessica slowly transitioned from a participant to an Ambassador for Project Healing Waters, and at the same time she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Maryville College in Tennessee.

 

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Jessica Callihan, Sweet Dreams, oil on canvas, 9.75 x 18 inches


Recently, Jessica became a Founding Member of Able Women: a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women through the strength, courage, passion, and determination found through fly fishing and being outdoors. Her own story of how fly fishing saved her life inspires Jessica to teach others, especially disabled Veterans, women, and children, how to do the sport she loves. When she is not traveling, giving speeches, or teaching the art of fly fishing, she is in her art studio recreating memories of being on the water and the awe-inspiring places her life has led her.

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Photo by Two Fisted Heart Productions

Jessica will be in Middleburg speaking at the National Sporting Library & Museum event, Hooked: Changing Tides, Enduring Bonds on March 18th, 2017. Join us to hear more about her incredible journey.

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