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Art show ‘the epitome’ of seeing beyond disability
Emin Jassal shifts her motorized wheelchair toward a wall of paintings.
“The first one right here,” she gestures. “It’s a baby cradle.”
Jassal, a young woman with an eye for art, is among the adults supported by Richmond Society for Community Living. She participates in the society’s Avenues art program, which is exhibiting a variety of works at Richmond City Hall from participants with a range of disabilities.
Jassal chose to create the three-dimensional work—complete with roses, ribbons and a miniature baby—because, quite simply, she likes kids. How does she feel now that it’s on display for all to see?
The annual exhibition is timed with Community Living Month. Lisa Cowell, manager of fund and community development with the society, said the exhibition allows viewers to see art for art’s sake—not that the artist has a disability.
“So often we think people with disabilities don’t have the same capabilities,” she said. “We have a slogan which is seeing beyond disability to ability, and this to me is the epitome of that.”
Robert Grad, 55, also attends the Avenues program. His half-metre-tall canvas Red Parrot is an acrylic painting that made the cover of the society’s annual report.
Finished with non-traditional techniques and equipment, program art director Mumtaz Khokhar calls the creations “modified art.” Grad utilized brushes with stiff bristles, while others use tools such as a sponge attached to a wooden spoon. And the process of researching, practising and square-by-square painting is time-consuming.
“This one has 1,000 steps,” said Khokhar of Grad’s parrot. “It takes us a year to do sometimes.”
But the artists don’t show frustration, noted Khokhar, who said in 15 years she’s never seen someone quit.
“It’s always fun,” she said. “They want to do it all the time.”
Beyond seeing their work displayed in art exhibitions, some artists have also found success in selling.
“They all want to do art because they want to make money,” laughs Restie Bengco, the program’s supervisor. “They will come to my office and say, ‘Is my cheque ready yet?’”
Making art not only allows participants to exercise creativity, it also develops skills in fine motor control and research. Improved self-esteem is another positive benefit, along with a sense of pride for participants like Grad, who started in art with crayons and progressed to applying gold leaf to his red parrot’s wings.
Said Bengco: “He was saying it symbolized sunshine.”
Some Avenues artisans will also have their work featured in the ninth annual art show INCLUSION, which takes place in Vancouver Oct. 29 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Heritage Hall. Artwork will be available for sale.
Artwork and handicrafts are also available at the Endless Possibilities store, located at the Avenues day program, 140-5726 Minoru Blvd.