Unforgettable Art Artist Spotlight: Randy and Rhya Reed

The health and safety of our volunteers, staff and all of our constituents are our top priority as we continue to pursue our mission. Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and based on the guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC, Unforgettable Art originally planned for April 25 will be rescheduled.

Unforgettable Art is an annual event put on by the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter. A lively evening filled with creativity, artists convert blank canvases into beautiful works of art in front of your eyes. Featuring live music, appetizers and drinks, there is no shortage of entertainment making this evening truly unforgettable. The artists donate their time and talents for this event, ending with a live auction of all artwork. Proceeds benefit research, advocacy and resources for those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. To showcase these wonderful and dedicated creators we are featuring two Unforgettable Artist Spotlights, father-daughter duo Randy and Rhya Reed!

Randy and Rhya Reed are a father-daughter artistic duo who will be creating live work for this year’s Unforgettable Art. Randy has been with the event for all seventeen years, making him a veteran of the event. The two have crossed over many mediums in their artistic careers, including painting on wood, canvas, glass, drawing, and even tattoos. 

Randy’s inspiration stemmed from watching his father draw when he was young. “Life in art started when I was a kid and would watch my dad draw horses and cars with circles. I picked up a pencil and just started creating, and drawing on everything.” Randy’s imagination was fed by his desire to create something different across mediums, a trait he passed down to his daughter Rhya. 

Randy’s artwork continues to vary over the years as he draws inspiration from new and different observations. From paintings in black and white to undersea mammals with mermaids alongside them, Randy’s creative inspiration knows no limits. He has also worked in portraiture, airbrushing, caricatures, murals, and he even painted the background for Jane the Dinosaur at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL. “I guess my specialty is to keep people guessing.”

Rhya’s artistic career initiated the same way her father’s did- through watching him create. She would observe as he painted or drew, every time creating something new and different. She started drawing small comics, which developed into tattoo design using markers and colored pencils. “When I was about eighteen my dad bought me my first set of brushes and canvases so I could express my creativity in a new way. I couldn’t be more thankful for having that push to continue my art.” 

Randy and Rhya’s connection to Unforgettable Art emanates from their beloved Grandmother and Stepmother, Joyce Reed. Joyce was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago and the family has had to adjust to properly caring for and supporting such a beautiful and loving soul. Art has helped them to honor her- “Art has become a big part of me because it was there during dark times in my life,” says Rhya. Not only does their participation in Unforgettable Art allow them to convey their experience through creation, it also directly supports research, advocacy, and care for those affected by Alzheimer’s. 

Get tickets to Unforgettable Art here

“Be Strong. Be Brave.”

Jessica Nazario lives in St. Charles, Illinois with her husband Mark and four children- Rian, Alex, Max, and Mason. After moving around the country for Mark’s job, St. Charles finally became home. Jessica was raised in Pullman, Washington by her parents Dr. Beth Waddel and Dr. Bill Condon. Growing up, Jessica and her sister referred to their mother as “Kid Mom” due to her playful nature. She was always coming up with creative entertainment for her girls- from dance parties to Sunday Night Beauty Shop (face masks and nail painting paired with a good movie). Jessica was inspired by watching her mother conquer a PhD while having elementary aged children, and working full time as a psychologist while continuing to live up to the distinguished title of “Kid Mom”. 

As a grandparent, Beth maintains the same personality and flare when spending time with her grandchildren. Beth is the master of knowing how to meet the kids where they are – both mentally and physically. As infants, she would cuddle and hold them close. When they grew into toddler age, you could find Beth lying on the ground rolling around alongside them. Once they started getting even older, she created unique clubs for each of the kids to join in on for adventures. The older grandkids titled their club “Sneaky Thieves”, while “Sneaky Ninjas” was suited for the younger ones. The goal of the clubs was to engage in their escapades without the parents knowing. For example, stealing a cake from the kitchen and escaping to the tent out back to eat it in secrecy. Once some of her grandchildren reached their teenage years, Beth downloaded Snapchat. Though it may have been to her chagrin, Beth knew it was one of the best ways to stay in communication with her grandkids. 

Jessica and her sister first noted some signs of memory loss in their mother two years ago. Jessica described them as “that was weird” moments. Without much understanding behind the forgetfulness, Jessica and her sister noted the instances as being unusual but had little further explanation of what was going on. As these moments became more frequent, Beth sought medical care and was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Just last month, this diagnosis was advanced to Alzheimer’s disease. Jessica has since taken initiative to access all the resources and support she can get her hands on. From webinars and support programs for her father as a caregiver, to creating a Walk To End Alzheimer’s team.

Jessica’s sons have also taken matters into their own hands. Her youngest boys, Max and Mason, decided to start a fundraiser online to sell bracelets. The bracelets read “Be Strong, Be Brave” and the boys sell them to support their grandmother.  “We started the fundraiser because we know people are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, but need money to do it. We wanted to help, because we felt sad about Grams,” says 10-year-old Max. “I came up with the bracelet idea because I’ve seen it used for other causes. We picked purple because it’s the color for Alzheimer’s, and the quote ‘Be Strong. Be Brave.’ just came into my head.” 

The boys have already raised a sizable amount of money to support Alzheimer’s care, support and research thanks to the boundless support from friends and family. “I didn’t feel like I was too young to do a fundraiser. I mean, I am only eight, but anyone can do anything,” says Mason. 

Jessica, Mark and their children take on this battle with Beth’s wise words in mind. One of Beth’s favorite stories to tell Jessica growing up was about a little boy waking up on Christmas morning to horse manure under the tree in lieu of gifts. The little boy was not discouraged, instead, he began shoveling the manure exclaiming “With all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere!” With that, Jessica and her family try to live life always digging for the pony. Beth also frequently used the words “joy” and “perseverance” in day to day life, and so Jessica’s family takes on this new challenge with joyful perseverance. Getting involved with the Alzheimer’s Association is this family’s way of honoring their loving grandmother and supporting the fight to end Alzheimer’s.