From capturing the bond between family members in a portrait, to helping those with learning disabilities, Catriona Binder-Macleod has always sought to make the world better.

“What we do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that we do it,” Macleod said, referencing a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. “It’s important that we each do our little part because as a collective, we’ll make a change. That’s how I’ve shaped my life and my role in my community.”

Macleod began as an art major at the University of Delaware but switched to occupational therapy under the impression that it would lead to art therapy. Macleod worked at the Centreville Layton School in Wilmington for 27 years, along with stints at schools in Georgia and Virginia, before retiring.

Occupational therapy helps patients develop or recover meaningful everyday activities. Many of the students Macleod worked with were referred to her because of bad handwriting.

“For kids, their occupation is school. So it’s about learning better motor control so they can play and run,” Macleod said. “In school, they have to write, so I end up doing a lot of activities to improve fine motor skills.”

The experiences of families with disabled children touched Macleod, as she saw how a disabled child often changed the dynamics within families. One boy Macleod worked with in Georgia, where she worked with severally disabled children, died at a young age and the bereaved parents adopted a child with Down syndrome, something that struck Macleod.

“They’ve had such a handicapped child, and they felt that they could give so much more to another child,” Macleod said. “They just thought that she was the center of the world. It’s about that humanity people have for taking care of each other.”

Macleod’s experience working with children and her own experience as a mother, combined with an admiration of photographer Sally Mann’s work, led her to create a series of black and white portraits of children and mothers, trying to capture the tenderness of childhood. One photo featured Macleod’s grandparents’ hands around her children, showing the tenderness between generations.

She said she enjoys seeing her photographs treasured.

“Sometimes I go into somebody’s house and I go up closer and I realize, hey it was one of mine,” Macleod said. “Their kids are in their 30s, and these pictures are still there.”

As a photographer, Macleod now uses photo editing software to make her images look almost like paintings, a technique that will be on display during her upcoming show at the Newark Arts Alliance in January 2023. The show is inspired by her frequent visits to California to visit her grandchildren.

“When I come out here, I’m always in awe,” Macleod said about California.

Macleod creates connections between generations through her work with TeenSHARP, a program connecting adult mentors with children of color who are navigating the college process. Macleod said she learned a lot from her mentee.

“We travel such different worlds. It’s given me a better understanding of the difficulties people of color face,” Macleod said.

Along with TeenSHARP, Macleod works with the League of Women Voters on voting rights issues and was previously active in the PTA.

“Even when my kids were little, I was always in the middle of doing something to make things better,” Macleod said.

Macleod first moved to Newark when her father got a job in Wilmington, since her parents wanted to be close to the University of Delaware.

After moving away as an adult, the Newark High School alumna returned to the area because her husband applied to a job at the University of Delaware. At first, she was hesitant to return to her childhood hometown.

“I said no, I spent 19 years trying to leave there, I’m not going back to Newark,’” Macleod recalled.

The memories of her childhood came back as her husband described running down Creek Road and she went to Deer Park Tavern after the job interview.

“For the first year or two, everywhere I walked was flooded with memories. I would go down Main Street and go ‘oh I would sit on that ledge and watch the parade.’ On every corner there were memories,” Macleod said. “We brought our kids up in Newark, so they’ve all been replaced by family memories now.”

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