More About Me
Marie Gail “MG” Stratford is a recreational therapist and holistic artist whose experience ranges from direct client care during deinstitutionalization to teaching dance to high-risk middle school students in inner cities. Today, she brings her understanding of the healing effects of recreational creativity to individuals of all ages.
Born with severe bilateral clubfoot, MG struggled with mobility issues and severe chronic pain throughout childhood. She began walking unassisted at five and wore leg braces and orthotic shoes through most of grade school. At age seven, she turned to art and creativity as outlets for emotional processing. By age 10, her first poem was published in a nationally-distributed periodical, and at age 12 she began touring with an amateur puppet team. With the support of friends and fellow puppeteers, she navigated puppet tours for seven years.
As a senior high student, MG discovered pantomime, which emphasized her strengths as a performer and helped her process many intense emotions. In college, she traveled with a student-led mime troupe while pursuing a double major in English and Psychology. She traveled nearly every weekend, performing in cities across the country.
For a decade after college, MG learned, performed and taught interpretive movement as well as other forms of dance. During this time, C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) from early childhood trauma created a labyrinth of emotional difficulties. MG found healing through dance as well as through poetry and creative writing.
In 2012, MG started a writing service, helping organizations and individuals craft their message and improve their exposure. After four successful years, she began to experience an uptick in C-PTSD symptoms. Words failed her almost entirely.
Without words, MG turned to other creative expressions for healing. Within a few months, when anxiety rose, MG began channeling the hyper-vigilance of that panic into realistic sketches of birds. Focusing on line, shape and form to create these drawings, she channeled the excess nervous energy into soothing nature illustrations.
Eventually, MG explored a few varieties of paint, doing research on cost, quality and environmental impact. She eventually embraced watercolors as her preferred nonverbal form of creative communication. Friends began contacting MG about her paintings. A former professor purchased a print. Craft trades were set up in order to acquire her prints. A local non-profit requested the donation of original paintings for a benefit auction. Unintentionally, MG became a profitable artist.
On October 18, 2019, MG underwent an anterior tibial tendon transfer on her right foot in an effort to correct her gait and improve mobility. Recovery came with a number of challenges. Pain management proved difficult. Shortly after the procedure, Joy Ellsworth of Clement Waters came for a visit. During this visit, she mentioned community interpretive dance classes she hoped to organize in Kansas City the following year. MG agreed to participate, and Clement Waters sponsored MG’s first Sustainable Movement class.
Sustainable Movement classes functioned as a way for MG to perform her own physical therapy in a controlled environment and provide a journey of recovery for others. At each session, MG and her dance students found relief and healing from their individual physical and mental challenges.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced suspension of in-person classes, MG knew she had to continue offering her healing services online. The classes, now reaching an international audience, continue to grow and MG is excited to work with her students, her colleagues and her supporters to expand her portfolio of sustainable creativity and recreational therapy.
Drawing from the lessons in her life, MG helps others find their own unique outlets for optimal mental health and well-being.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on the first night [of Sustainable Movement class], but due to being quarantined, I was looking for something new I could do at home. I had such a fantastic time during the first class, I decided to continue. Every class has brought a relaxation of the body as well as encouragement and peace for my mind and soul.
Marie Gail’s art brings me joy
[MG’s] dance class is a wonderful experience, for all sizes and ages. Dance is pure innovation in every way, shape, and form.”
I have known Marie Gail Stratford for over 20 years now. We worked together in a different creative type platform- dance, drama, and pageantry for 10 of those 20 years. Despite some physical issues she always accomplished what she set out to do and did it with style! I love her ‘I can do anything I set my mind to do’ attitude!
Just last year I found out that she was painting and that we share the same interests in dragonflies, birds, and flowers. I own several of her paintings and proudly display them on my wall in my home. Every time I walk by, it makes me smile because Marie Gail paints with joy! I asked her to help me start painting since I did not know a thing and she was so kind and gracious to help someone who only knows how to draw stick people accomplish a pretty good first picture. She told me you can do anything you set your mind to! Well, where have I heard that before! Looking forward to some more lessons!”