Help is a Far Cry, 2014
oil on canvas, 60'' x 70''
You know how when you live close to something or see something every day it’s easy to miss the details? For example, I grew up in Manhattan but never went to the Empire State Building until some family members visited and we all went. The same holds true for your office building, even if that building is part art museum. Our offices are located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center where Smithsonian Associates also holds the majority of its programs. The Ripley Center isn’t known for the art it contains given that it’s sandwiched between the Freer and Sackler Gallery and the Museum of African Art and is considered a mixed-use space. But art does grace its walls from time to time.
Blood Stains 3, 2013
archival inkjet print, 27'' x 22''
Initially, I glanced at a piece or two of art on my way somewhere else not digesting the exhibit in its entirety. Just the other day I glanced at the plaque introducing the exhibit which led me to explore the artworks a little further. This particular exhibit features the contest winners of a group of young, emerging artists between the ages of seventeen and twenty five. The exhibit contains many artistic styles and different types of media. There are paintings, photos, videos, sketches, and even music. You could put these works into the Hirshhorn Museum or National Gallery of Art and no one would know they weren’t there the day before. In addition to being talented artists, these individuals are also extremely academically accomplished. So when I decided I wanted to write a blog post about this exhibit I figured it would be a good time to go read about the exhibit (in its entirety) as well as read the little blurbs next to each work of art. I had not expected what I was about to read:
“The 2014 theme, The Journey, asks artists to present work that illuminates innovative viewpoints at the junction of sustainability, creativity, and disability. Here, artists consider the representation of a journey—internal and external, personal and communal, human and technological—and, in response, create compositions highlighting the ways in which our individual journeys shape our aesthetic and environmental terrain and define our daily lives as a community.”
“With this travelling exhibition, we hope to position and give visibility to the work of artists with disabilities throughout the United States and around the world, cementing their work in the broader context of the history, art, and culture of the American—as well as global—experience.”
I Think He Forgot I'm Deaf, 2014
digital photography, 19'' x 13''
Each of these works was done by an artist with a disability. I couldn’t believe that I had admired the works for weeks and not actually grasped what the exhibit was about. I had just assumed these were works from the Smithsonian Collections put on display. But these weren’t the works of renowned artists who had been doing this their whole career; these were teens to young adults who were just starting their artistic careers. Now, I’m not going to talk about these individual’s being artists with disabilities because their works could hold their own in any setting. Nor do I want to talk about any one specific work. I’d just recommend that if you see them you look at the art first, and then read the blurb the artist provided about the work as it gives insight not only into the artistic thought process but the artist’s disability. Then look at the work again given this new information. The way these individuals use their art to not only evoke emotion in a viewer but also help them cope with their disabilities is very moving. With these recommendations in mind about the exhibit what I want to talk about is the organization that sponsored this. The VSA is a wonderful organization that falls under the auspices of The Kennedy Center. What they do for artists with disabilities and to bring the arts to people, especially children, with disabilities is incredible. I’d implore you to explore their website and forward it along to anyone you know who would be interested or could benefit from programs like this--broadening awareness will do nothing but help bring happiness to people in our communities. I highly recommend a visit to The Journey in the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the third floor to see for yourself what these young artists have accomplished.