Not in chronological order, but, introducing, my favorite bits of the Day of Arts for All! On March 2nd, People gathered at the Westerville Community Center, including myself, in celebration of artists with disabilities throughout Ohio for the Day of Arts for all. Artists of all shades were displayed and given awards for their creations. The artists themselves came up after a short introduction by the mayor of Westerville. First, came the AEO (Accessible Expressions Ohio) Youth awards. Great to see some representation of accessibility in the artistic arena!
Then, it was straight on to the Young Soloists category. 3rd place singer Sam Shephard delivered a wonderful Jazz set, including a Michael Buble-ish sounding number, and a rendition of “Yesterday” by John Lennon. Finally, Shepherd, the blind music virtuoso, absolutely stunned on the harmonica, having only 5 months training with it prior, as he sang “Keys to the Highway”!
Savannah Todd performed a surprising mix of pop vocals from Christina Aguilera to once again, the Beatles! And then, last but certainly not least the awe-inspiring operatic vocals of Brian Michael Moore, who I was blown away by; not only singing in Italian, but German as well! Not every day I hear German opera, but of course it’s a pet subject of mine, so I loved it! Most inspiring to me, was how much talent each vocalist had. Most had been singing since childhood, and had already written songs or been featured on the stage. It was a wonderful testament to recognizing talent and accessibility!
Next up, Ian Getha in Youth Artists, with his dazzlingly colorful display of confetti and tissues and mixed media stuffed into a box called aptly “Party in a Box”! The finalists in this category ranged from the serious to the surreal in creativity. Party in a box is an eye-popping 3D artistic construction from a Kleenex box, that really has to be seen. Also, placing in this section was “The Bird That Protects Me While I Sleep” a somewhat surreal piece brightly colored with impressionistic undertones that form a bird and give the illusion of sleep, in that it came together only as a whole picture. (Nathaniel Curtis) Truly inspiring, and recalls the power of dreams/myth in disabled life, to me. Lastly, Lucas Feruito captured a whimsical town populated by pets in Petropolis.
There was one piece I took one look at and said “Oh, that’s good. That’ll win an award.” Little did I know the painting was “Istanbul Was Constantinople” (Though I initially grinned at the title’s allusion to the song of the same name. This was a work of art done by AEO professional and wheelchair user Tony Hoover; who’d painted an Istanbul skyline with onion shaped towers in red and black; and used yellow for lights.
Also in the gallery, I ran into some photographers in the Athens Photography Project (APP) who won awards, so of course I took them aside to get firsthand commentary on their works. First, Penny Causey’s “The Sun Always Rises”; a view of a foggy sunrise in rural Athens, OH. The gray rises with the blue and pink sky to form lines of silver on the horizon. Penny said, “It was a lucky shot. The fog just happened to be that way.” If the shot had been any later, the silver color might have gone. “Excellent,” I said. “I love it!”
I had an opportunity as well to speak to Gordon Francoisa about his “Coal on a Spring Evening” which was a photo taken on OSU campus of a big lump of coal right below the single green branch of a tree. It’s message is, in Gordon’s words, “To communicate that coal is very harmful to Ohio.” After that, I indicated that maybe the tree was meant to be a sign of hope. “Maybe,” he said. “But the coal was more photogenic.” he laughs, but in a way he wasn’t lying. OSU’s red and white scheme provided a sort of natural highlight to the lump of black coal that draw the eyes in.
Afterwards, they had started the singing in the assembly room. (Remember, I’m going by favorites, not chronological order.) I decided to have a coffee, and some good tea that must’ve had some kind of lavender; sat back and enjoyed the show. I will say that this exhibition was by far one of the most diverse displays of creativity I’ve seen by disabled photographers.
But, if I may venture back into that assembly room for a moment there were a few other paintings I’d like to mention as favorites. One of which actually received “Best of Show”. Charlotte McGraw’s “The Big-Earred Bats of Charlottesville”! I’ve always had an affinity for magical realism, and these bats rendered as enormously-earlobed cartoon creatures hanging upside-down, was I take it; inspired by magical realism…that is, a fantastical depiction of a real subject. Personally, I feel the style represents my own striving to go beyond what “is”, and of course have a little fun, though I don’t know if her disability experience influenced the painting. That’s just my take on it.
Lastly, regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of sci-fi. I even began this blog with the intention of reviewing “high sci-fi” books; before focusing more on my “alien” experiences with disability. In this regard, I think my last favorite of the bunch was “The Electric City” by another AEO professional, Malcolm J. This picture of NYC lit with yellow and tall skyscrapers invoked an awe-inspiring sci-fi looking landscape.
The experiences I had at the Day of Arts for All were in one word: amazing. I got to talk to some of the artists, (Even had the chance to thank Brian for his excellent German pronunciation, before he left.) experience their creations, and I even considered submitting my own art for next year. I encourage everyone I know to support VSA and a growing community of Ohioan artists with disabilities. Help make next year as amazing as the last. The moral of this story is that people may have disabilities, but they disappear once art gives their abilities a voice!
(c) Charlotte Mcgraw -"The Big-Earred Bats of Charlottesville"
(c) Ian Getha - "Party in a Box"
(c) Nathaniel Curtiss "The Bird That Protects Me While I Sleep"