BURRILLVILLE – In the air, she is Indy Anna, soaring through the sky in a ‘46 Globe Swift.

Back on earth, Candace Ranslow is a brain injury specialist at a Neurotrauma facility, and her specialty is expressive arts therapy.

“I work to help people find the best in themselves,” Ranslow told NRI NOW, while speaking this week about art, engineering, and her long-time fascination with flying.

A Burrillville resident, Ranslow notes she began flying as a passenger about five years ago. Her first private flight was in a Piper Cub with Pilot Chris Reiff, who works for Hasbro’s Star Wars design team. After two years learning from Reiff, she now works with a certified flight instructor out of Mansfield Municipal Airport, where she also hangars her plane.

Asked how it feels when she is up in the sky, Ranslow responds, “Flying is the ultimate freedom.”

“It feels like my soul is free to soar… weightless,” she added. “I look down to the patterns of nature and man, the sandbars under the shallows, dolphins swimming in pods, seals basking in the shores, and I find inspiration in it all. It’s a spiritual experience seeing all that we know from such heights.”

“It changes your relationship with grounded reality and life as we know it.”

It takes at least 40 hours of flying time in order to apply as a private pilot. Ranslow will finish her training this year.

“It’s actually very easy, but math and good critical thinking skills are important when you want to achieve becoming a pilot,” she said.

Ranslow has always been intrigued by both practical mathematics and art. At CCRI, her first major was in engineering, but she switched to fine arts after a year.

“Engineering was very analytical, and the creative side of me needed expression,” she told NRI NOW.

Ranslow graduated with an associates degree, but pivoted her major to clinical psychology at Rhode Island College when she discovered her art credits from CCRI may not apply towards RIC’s BA program. The switch was a lucky twist of fate – it allowed Ranslow to use her experience in the arts to enrich the techniques she applies to working in the field of Neurotrauma.

Ranslow’s first job out of RIC was with Veterans Inc., a non profit in Worcester that helps veterans dealing with PTSD, Neurotrauma and addiction issues. While there, she received an offer from Aspire!, a non profit that specializes in disabilities and acquired/traumatic brain injuries. Ranslow now concentrates in the field of Neurotrauma as a brain injury specialist. The arts have become an integral part of the daily lives of the clients she works with.

“Art making, especially with individuals that have disabilities, is deeply empowering,” she said. “Creating art gives individuals new modes of expression.”

Ranslow has a particular interest in community collaborative art, which began in 2008 while working in adult programming at the Jesse Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville.

At first, she worked with patrons individually, but soon saw that when people were working on art projects together they began to interact more with each other.

“Making art in the community introduces individuals who wouldn’t regularly meet, and each person contributes their personal talents to help unify the project as a whole,” Ranslow observed. “There’s a certain level of joy, a sense of belonging that comes from creating art as a group.”

Many of Ranslow’s collaborative projects involve textile design.

“I’m trained in several different methods, spanning across the continents of the world – African textile design, Japanese textile design, and textile design of Thailand,” she said. “I also offer workshops in silk scarf marbling and batik, in which you use wax and dye to create designs on fabric.”

Some of those collaborative pieces now hang in Jesse Smith and Cumberland Public Library.

A member of the Lions Club International, Ranslow quoted the human services philosophy noting, “I place myself not above you, or below you, but beside you.”

She believes that if you give, it comes back.

“Bringing community together is something I continuously work toward,” she said.

Ranslow is currently participating in an exhibit called 25 Million Stitches. The project, developed by Jennifer Kim Sohn of California, has a mission – to bring attention to the many refugees that are fleeing persecution in the world. Each state in the US will be represented, as well as several countries. Details on the project can be found at https://youtu.be/MJHINOws6dg.

She has also recently begun another collaboration, with the international woman’s pilot group, The 99’s. These fearless flyers support other female aviators working towards their pilot’s license through mentorship and scholarships.

For a former town librarian pursuing her passions, it’s all in a day’s work.

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