LAYTON What started as a 99-cent roll of wallpaper has snowballed into a unique combination fighting the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis with art.
"It was an accident," said Corinne Turner, Layton. "Obviously, nobody dreamed this would happen."
Two years ago, Corinne bought the wallpaper at the Ogden liquidation store the Basement. When she unrolled her purchase with husband Stacy, they were surprised to find five pieces of art by renowned Italian-born artist Pino, worth more than $6,000. After contacting Pino's son and finding out the paintings were authentic giclees a print-making process to resemble high-quality reproductions on canvas she feared the paintings were stolen. She offered to give them back to the Basement, but the owners said "a deal's a deal."
"That's when we knew it wasn't meant for us," she said.
The Turners and their children discussed what to do with the money. Corinne was diagnosed with MS in 2001 and had been bedridden for two months, so the family decided to donate the money to the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
"We had felt it was good fortune to us, and we wanted to share it with others," Stacy said.
But Corinne wanted to help Utahns who suffer from the disease. Inspired by daughters Desire and Shalynn, she created the Desilynn Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and, with a team of staff and volunteers, funds the foundation through selling art like Pino's.
"And since this happened, I've been symptom-free," Corinne said, wiping away tears.
Launched through media attention, including an interview on "Good Morning, America," the foundation now carries the work of local and international artists. Most have donated their work so she can frame and resell the pieces at a discount price to fund the foundation. After Pino heard what Corinne was doing with the money from his paintings, he became a regular contributor, has donated hundreds of paintings to DMSF and will only allow Corinne to sell his paintings at discounted prices.
"We never thought that framing would be something that would be our forte but we love it," Corinne says.
Two months ago, pieces were sold at doctor's offices, art shows and even out of the Turners' home. But in March, Corinne and her team of full-time staff and volunteers moved into the south end of The Gateway, a building donated by the plaza, and now have an official home for the pieces: a full-fledged framing gallery appropriately named The Art of Giving.
"I know this is for me now," she says of her work at the gallery.
Corinne and her team have sold the works of more than 100 artists, including relief sculptor Bill Mack, fusion artist Max Gold, sculptor Mark Hopkins and painters JC Pino, Andrei Protsouk, David Schluss and Natasha Barnes. In addition to Pino, Corinne has close friendships with a handful of the artists she works with. JC Pino (no relation to Italian artist Pino) painted a portrait of Corinne, "MS Madonna," and the original is displayed in the gallery. And a few of the artists make sure to donate their number 111 giclee to Corinne, because Jan. 1 is the date Corinne and Stacy were married.
"A unique thing that we do, we don't hold a pan out to say please come to our society," said Judy Smith, president of the DMSF board. "Our donations are all from the sale of art work."
Recently, the gallery received a large donation of 1,000 pieces from art distributor Slaymaker, which included paintings from hundreds of artists.
"If we had the funds to frame these up, they would fly out," Corinne said, sorting through the pile of unframed art. "We're slowly framing them up. It's practically like this gift was so gorgeous and so beautiful, but we can't afford to frame them to show the public."
In addition to the money for framing, there's also the space problem. Although the 1,400-square-foot building has plenty of wall space, the foundation is constantly getting donations and 25 percent of the art work must be displayed in a showroom at her home.
"There's just not enough room," she said.
About half of the staff at the gallery are paid employees while the other half are volunteers, many of whom have been affected by MS.
"I just wanted to be a part of this big ball of goodness," said volunteer Debbie Richardson. "I remembered reading the story and I thought that it was the most amazing thing that she would donate that art to MS. I was in awe of that."
Although Richardson spends a lot of her time working with a daughter with Down syndrome, she said she feels it's important to volunteer at the gallery twice a week.
"When you're in the world of disabilities, it's all one big family," she said.
More than 40 percent of the profits earned at the gallery go to DMSF and the gallery has so far made $200,000 for the foundation. Teamed up with the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, DMSF works under their guidelines to help MS patients.
"It's really neat to be able to help the different people with MS," said Stacy, who co-directs the foundation with Corinne. "It's just been a really positive experience from all of the customers and all of the people that have helped make it a reality."
Restoring homes, loaning wheelchairs, maintaining a literature library, helping pay for hospital bills, buying supplies, cleaning and taking care of patient homes and providing oxygen therapy, acupuncture and counseling are services DMSF provides to Utah MS patients.
"To have someone go in, feed the kids, take care of the house and do some dishes and some laundry, these are the women that turn around and help here and do it for someone else," Corinne said.
DMSF also donated money to the University of Utah for MS research. In addition, Dr. Arif Chowdhury, a neurologist in Layton who specializes in MS and has been involved in the foundation, has dedicated the first Wednesday of every month to working with MS patients for free through DMSF.
"MS is an expensive illness," she said. "Even with insurance, there's no way you can get around it being less than $800 a month. It's expensive to be this sick."
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, MS is a disease of the central nervous system and is the most common neurological disorder diagnosed in young adults. MS damages or destroys protective insulation surrounding the nerves as well as the nerves themselves within the central nervous system. Its causes are not fully understood and difficult to diagnose, but it may be controlled if recognized and treated early.
"It's not uncommon for the typical woman to come in and talk to us about what's going on for her to have been struggling two years with doctors of not knowing what's happening to her," Corinne said. "I have watched so many people not make it because they weren't diagnosed in time."
In the United States, approximately 350,000 individuals have been diagnosed about 10,000 in Utah. The occurrence of MS is correlated with latitude, meaning people living beyond the 40-degree mark north or south of the equator are far more likely to develop MS. Also, MS is more prevalent among people with Northern European or Scandinavian ancestry and is three times as likely to develop in women.
The foundation is applying for grants to hire a full-time nurse who can make house calls and do consulting. Smith, who is one of about six active board members, helps man the foundations wide variety of volunteer and staff workers.
"None of it is possible without an entire team," Smith said. "Without a team, none of this would be happening."
And Corinne said she hopes that through the artists' donations and the foundation's work, MS will someday stand for "Mystery Solved."
Today, Corinne is symptom-free. She is still bargain shopping, purchasing frames at closeout sales. Although the gallery is constantly selling art, she is cautious where the money goes.
"I'm real careful about how much I put back in here (the gallery) and how much goes back out to the community. I've always felt that my health would be jeopardized . . . if I didn't make it a good mix." The Art of Giving is expanding with a kiosk at the Layton mall in August and the gallery plans to start mobile framing and corporate art consulting.
DMSF is waiting for grants to support the growing foundation. Five years down the road, Smith said she hopes DMSF has enough money for a building to house the foundation.
"There's just so much potential," Smith said. "The only thing that can really stop somebody is to quit dreaming."For more information on the gallery and the foundation or to volunteer, visit utahartofgiving.org. The gallery's grand opening will be June 10 and June 11 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Appearances by painters, MS open forums with doctors, auctions, food and music will be part of the official opening.
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