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‘Bent but not broken’: Tina Basich-Haller raises scoliosis awareness through art

By Jennifer Nobles
Special to Prospector
Tina Basich-Haller is inspired by her daughter Addison's scoliosis diagnosis and said her daughter is "so brave."
Photo by Jennifer Nobles

Tina Basich-Haller has been an artist all her life. When she wasn’t creating works of art she was touring the world as a professional snowboarder, earning many accolades for her sport and competing in such events as the X-Games. There was little that scared her.

However Basich-Haller met her greatest challenge three years ago when her then ten-year-old daughter Addison was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.

Basich-Haller used her daughter's original MRI image to create a powerful image. "The strongest animal I could imagine was an elephant, so I made the elephant pushing on her spine. I did that piece as a visualization for her. And every night I’d say, 'Addy just imagine that elephant pushing it straight.'"
Provided photo

“We went in for her ten-year (check up), and they saw a curve in her spine from the test,” said Basich-Haller. “It was surprising to see that image for the first time of her curved spine and it was pretty curved. It was an S-shaped curve. When you see the MRI it’s shocking, overwhelming and scary.”

Tina Basich-Haller shows off her artwork in the back yard of her Nevada City home.
Photo by Jennifer Nobles

Basich-Haller discovered there is no known cure for scoliosis, just treatment that in many cases involves surgery. She and her husband Zach were resolute that they would do anything they could to avoid an invasive operation. This included working with a clinic based in Campbell, California whose goal is to spare scoliosis patients from the pain and inconvenience of being operated upon.


WHAT: “Bent but not broken: A scoliosis journey through art”

WHERE: The Granucci Gallery, The Center for the Arts, 314 West Main Street, Grass Valley

WHEN: May 18 – June 18. Gallery hours Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Opening reception Friday, May 14, 5 to 7 p.m.

MORE INFO: thecenterforthearts.org or call 530-274-8384

“We had to absorb the information and find our strength to get through the treatment and push through,” said Basich-Haller. “[Addison’s initial] three week appointment was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life. I have pushed myself to the limit, with snowboarding and bravery in my element of sports and challenged myself with runs in Alaska and avalanches and all this craziness and that was really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Because you can’t take the pain away from your daughter. You have to push through the pain.”

Basich-Haller experiments with a variety of canvases. In this case, she applied her art to skateboard decks.
Provided photo

As an artist, Basich-Haller could think of only one way to get herself — and consequently her family — through these rough times: create.

“I’ve always been an artist and so art is an outlet for me,” she said. “And with Addison’s scoliosis journey it pretty much just ripped my heart right open. This was a level that I hadn’t felt before as a mother so automatically what I am wired to do is to do art. The art is a reflection of my experience through a mother’s eyes.”

Her exhibit at The Center for the Arts is not only dedicated to but inspired by Addison’s journey and will also help to raise awareness of scoliosis and the impact it can have on young bodies.

The exhibit will be displayed in a chronological order and will incorporate images of Addison’s MRIs as well as photos and clippings Basich-Haller has collected over the years.

“The art intensifies,” she said. “We go every three months for a treatment because the spine can change that fast. The path of intensity of our journey equals the art. If we have an intense appointment, I come home and do art for seven days straight instead of just one piece. It mirrors the journey pretty well.”

Basich-Haller also said the choice to exhibit at The Center for the Arts was a natural decision. She has been a patron of the venue for some time and even won The Center’s “Dancing With Our Stars” competition in 2017.

“I think doing [Dancing With Our Stars] for The Center helped me to recognize how important that center is to our community, and how it is a fundraising-supported effort to keep that going. It was the first place I thought of to do a show and it’s my first solo show. So that’s really special and I am honored to be an artist exhibiting there.”

The artwork will be for sale, with proceeds going towards Addison’s ongoing and costly treatment which is not covered by insurance, but is proving successful as she continues to improve. Raffles will also be held for those who wish to donate and take their chances on winning a piece of unique artwork. Wearable art – such as yoga pants and sports bras – will also be available.

Basich-Haller will continue to advocate for scoliosis patients and mentioned that June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month. Due to budget cuts, she said, many schools have severely reduced their testing on the condition which consists of a 30-second examination. The detection of any curve in the spine could be life-changing for any young or teen woman, in whom the condition is mostly found.

Additionally she is quick to credit Addison’s school with stepping up and educating themselves as well as the other students. On a few occasions Addison has taken her customized back brace into her class not only for show and tell but to tutor her classmates on how they can help her put on and remove the brace, something with which she needs assistance.

“I hope people can see through the art how important it was for me to be able to create it,” said Basich-Haller. “The art was not created for this art show; it was created because I had to create it, so I hope that they can see the depths of our journey through the art. I hope that people can see the beauty of it over the pain of it, and that they know that we’re okay.”

Tina Basich-Haller’s “Bent But Not Broken: A Scoliosis Journey Through Art” will be on display in The Center for the Arts’ Granucci Gallery May 14 through June 18. A special Q & A with the artist will be held via Zoom June 9 at 4 p.m. For more information please visit thecenterforthearts.org or call 530-274-8384. Masks are required when visiting the gallery.

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Nevada City. She can be reached at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.

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