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Changing Landscapes: An art exhibit


Paintings showcase works made by Twin Cities area artists with disabilities

By Michael Moore

froomish165
"The Three-legged Froomish Encounters an Orange” by Bridget Riversmith, watercolor

July 21, 2009

An imaginary creature—a bulbous three-legged "froomish"—encounters an orange. A turbaned woman looks out at you with soft, haunting eyes. A beetle journeys through a landscape of twisty architecture and globes of nerve ending–like tendrils. A woman whose face is composed of neon yellow, pink, and orange sits in an abstract interior limned with lines of electric blue.

These paintings, which adorn the walls of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in Pattee Hall as part of the "Changing Landscapes" exhibit, are not just about evoking beauty or the wild spaces where imagination lives. They also serve to create awareness of and showcase works made by Twin Cities area artists with disabilities.

For the past two years, works by artists with disabilities have been exhibited at ICI, with new art installations changing about every four months. The next opening reception will take place July 22, 3–5 p.m., 325 Education Sciences Building. Tours of the artwork begin at 4:30 p.m. in the front lobby of Pattee Hall.

Ruth, line and color“Ruth, line and color” by Christi Furnas, oil on canvas

Beginnings
The program came about when ICI was awarded a grant of $1,500 from the Multicultural and Diversity Committee of the College of Education and Human Development to introduce artwork into the college, says Pat Salmi, a research associate at ICI and cochair of the Changing Landscapes committee.

"Instead of just a static gallery, I knew there were programs for art by people with disabilities that we could work with," says Salmi. And what's more, the art is beautiful and thought provoking.

Salmi, who has a PhD in art design, first approached Partnership Resources Inc. (PRI) to begin this program because her son is supported by their services. Over time, she made similar approaches to other organizations that support the creation of art by their clients with disabilities, including the Courage Center and the Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

The current exhibit features artists who are supported by the services of VSA (Vision-Strength-Access) arts of Minnesota, the newest partner in the Changing Landscapes collaboration. VSA arts of Minnesota supports individuals with disabilities throughout the state in creating art in their homes and communities.

ICI's  program of exhibits also supports the individual artists who show their work. "This has given them exposure and they have sold art work," says Salmi. Many of the artists whose work is shown participate in the art openings. Some stay with their art pieces where they can talk about their art.

Building community

"Changing Landscapes" has brought benefit to ICI beyond filling the halls with art. "We work in the field of disabilities but don’t always know the community," says Salmi. "In the course of working together, these organizations learn about what we are doing and we learn about them. This becomes a bridge-building process between ICI and these organizations."

VSA's programs include artist residences in public schools, professional development workshops in community locations, visual art exhibits in social service offices, and arts accessibility services for arts organizations around the state. VSA arts of Minnesota is part of VSA arts, a network of 42 state and 65 international organizations headquartered in Washington, D.C. VSA arts of Minnesota is the only state affiliate that offers an annual grant program to artists with disabilities.

Expanding on the successful "Changing Landscapes" collaboration, ICI was awarded two grants to host Changing Landscapes: Symposium on the Arts & Disability. This one-day symposium, to be held on October 30 at the Weisman Art Museum, will bring together artists with disabilities, disability service providers, University faculty, staff, students, art instructors, art advocates, and statewide guests to share ideas and strengthen opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the arts. The keynote will be given by Tom diMaria, director of Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California.
 


The July 22 Changing Landscapes exhibit, reception, and tour are free and open to the public.

The 36 works of art are on display now through September 30 during normal hours at Pattee Hall, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (Mon.–Fri.). Some of the artwork is for sale, and all profits go to the working artist.

ICI is part of the College of Education and Human Development and is a federally-designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities that works to improve community services and support for persons with disabilities and their families.

Contact Changing Landscape committee cochairs Pat Salmi or Megan Dushin for more information. Committee members include Melissa Critchley-Rodriguez, Kelly Hrenko, and Cliff Poetz.