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Friday, April 14, 2017

Hattiesburg artist thrives despite Parkinson's Disease

April 14, 2017

Rebekah Stark Johnson and artist Rob Cunningham visit during a recent reception for his solo art exhibit at Hattiesburg City Hall. Photo credit WDAM.

A Hattiesburg man is creating inspirational works of art while battling a debilitating disease.   
Rob Cunningham suffers from Parkinson's Disease.
It's a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and speech. 
He was diagnosed in 1989 at the age of 42.  

Cunningham had some training as a photographer before he was diagnosed, but only began painting seriously after he learned he had the disease.
"He sees himself as lucky," said Leisa Reinecke Flynn, Cunningham's wife. "He could've had a worse disease. We've known people with ALS and terrible things and he's really turned it into a new life for himself."
Cunningham is a Florida native who was in the restaurant business before retiring to Hattiesburg.
Today, he's embraced by the Hattiesburg area arts community.  
"He's been part of the Art Walk, he's had paintings down at Main Street Books, he had paintings in the emerging artists show," said Flynn.  
And now, one dozen of his paintings are on display at Hattiesburg City Hall.     
It's his first solo exhibit in the area. 
"I can see with his Parkinson's that just even the steadiness of his hand would be extremely important and he's had this now for 30 years and he's doing great," said Rebekah Stark Johnson, executive director of the Hattiesburg Arts Council.
Cunningham's paintings will be exhibited through mid-May.  

He also has about one hundred paintings on permanent exhibit at a movement disorders clinic in Gainesville, Florida.

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