Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Overcoming Disability to Excel and Thrive

In 1992 my son worked a summer job on a local turkey farm and one day while alone in a barn he got his right hand forefinger caught in a turning overhead feed auger. Life goes on and a person makes the necessary adjustments as he has. I am retired now but in the summer of 2007 I was looking forward to the subsequent July 2008 when I would formally retire. I intended to pick up my paint brushes and palette and resume an art occupation that I left behind fourty-five years earlier. During a casual 2007 summer day with my son’s family, I made a weight shift on a lounge chair so that my grandson could sit with me, and the back collapsed with my right hand on the frame. I severed the tip of my right forefinger. My son, remembering his own ordeal as though it were yesterday, was horrified to see something like this happen to his Dad. He told me that the first words out of my mouth were, “Ohhh, my painting.” In those first minutes I envisioned not being able to paint again, and contemplate how I could possibly learn to do it differently. Initially I developed a grip on pens, pencils and brushes with my other fingers. Then as I healed the victim finger was able to grasp a brush too. All that to say BIG DEAL! I didn’t lose much – hardly anything. When I see the adjustments that other people with significant physical, mental and emotional disabilities have made to become accomplished in some skill area I am overwhelmed. I pay them tribute. Moreover, every individual, group and organization that is on a mission to assist disabled people to realize impossible dreams I salute.

Alistair Green and Garry Curry are quadriplegic stone sculptors on Vancouver Island producing some of the most exquisite pieces of art you will ever see. But you can see it at this site where a movie will show you the specialized tools they have developed for their work and then view their individual websites. Garry is President of the Vancouver Island Society of Disabled Artists.

In Toronto Ellen Anderson’s son had cerebral palsy and had a bent for art. She found that there was no comparable facility in Canada like the ones she read about in the USA that serviced the art needs of artists and craftspeople with visible and invisible disabilities, i.e. people dying of AIDS...people with Down Syndrome and head injuries and much more. With a government grant she opened the Creative Spirit Art Centre.
Shanghai Art Centre for the Disabled in Shabei District holds an annual exhibition to display the work of artists and to make people understand more about disability.

Mouth and Foot Painters do astounding work and we are seldom exposed to opportunities to see it.

The International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers (IGODAP) is a leading voice in the promotion of disability arts and culture worldwide. A collective of artists and performers who identify with impairment and/or disability, its members are professional and amateur artists and performers of all genres. They include visual artists, screen and stage actors, dancers, comedians and humourists, musicians, singers, speakers, poets, writers, producers, directors and others working in the arts and entertainment industries. They experience physical, intellectual or learning disablement, mental illness, or a combination. In addition the Guild offers membership to those individuals and organisations who are involved in or supportive of disability art and performance. To learn more visit this The International Guild of Disabled Artists and Performers (IGODAP)site.

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