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Frances: Art and Alzheimer's

October's featured artist is our own Frances Smersh. Fourteen years ago it was Frances's idea to open a contemporary design boutique in West Seattle. Three and a half years ago Frances was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer's Disease.


You may have seen Frances in the shop, perhaps wearing her painting smock, usually eager to visit and say hello, maybe talk about products in the store, sometimes at a loss to find her words. This last year Frances has struggled with more challenges that the disease has presented, and found that art is an area that she can still thrive. While she now needs help getting that smock on and off, and can't sign her name on her paintings like she used to, she can layer color and line, texture and form, often in unorthodox ways to continually create.

With painting as her primary focus for most of the last year, she's produced an impressive body of work! She'll be presenting a collection of paintings Thursday October 11 during West Seattle Art Walk. She has titled her show "With a Little Help from my Friends", an acknowledgement of the extra assistance she now needs. Frances is especially grateful to her friend Michelle Ting (you may have seen her or her ceramics at Click!) whom she has worked closely with ever since their jewelry collaboration last year.

People often ask about Frances and how she's doing. There is no doubt that the disease is progressing. As previously mentioned, she needs assistance dressing and can no longer write her name. She is unsteady on her feet, jumbles and forgets words when speaking, and needs help with meals and transactions. She is very much the same shining person she has always been. She is remarkably optimistic despite her situation. She shows incredible empathy towards the people she meets every day: the homeless and elderly folks and others she comes in contact with in our neighborhood. She showers her husband John with love and affection, knowing this is hard on him too.

If you or someone you know would enjoy spending time or sharing a meal with (or providing a meal for) Frances, please reach out to John and let him know what you would be up for. She loves being with people and is pretty game for most activities. Friends have started a GoFundMe page in hopes of helping with some of the extra expenses they now face; donations of any amount are hugely appreciated.

Frances Studio

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  • Dianne Thorniley on

    I adore Frances’ work, and have earrings she’s made over the past 14 years. It breaks my heart to learn that anyone has that dreaded disease. She has an amazing sense of humor, and I am so happy that she is still active in what she loves. I will think of something to help, and let you know. My warmest wishes to her and her husband and staff.

  • Jane Harmon Jacobs And John Moritsusu on

    We admire you Frances and the work you are doing. You offer us a shining example of spirit. All our best to you.

  • Mark on

    Thank you guys for this. Know that you are an inspiration to those that are going through, or have experienced, the same journey. Your strength, creativity, and warmth is contagious…so thank you, thank you, thank you.

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