Art Center winter exhibit will celebrate artists with disabilities
Published 4:23 pm Thursday, December 22, 2022
The Art Center of the Bluegrass has announced its winter 2023 show – Connections – which will open to the public on January 13th. This is the third major exhibition in a series of exhibits featuring artists from under-represented backgrounds. The first exhibit in 2021 – “The Art of Being Black: Conversation and Experience” – grew out of the Art Center’s 2020 Commitment to Diversity. The success of that show led to a second exhibit in 2022 that celebrated the art and culture of Kentucky’s Appalachian region.
The Connections exhibit continues the tradition. Three inter-related exhibits, along with related community programming, will feature artists with disabilities.
Email newsletter signup
The Grand Hall gallery will feature artwork by five national artists, each of whom created brand-new, original artwork for the show. “Commissioning new work has become one of the defining hallmarks of our winter exhibits,” explains Kinkade. “First and foremost, it is a way for us to invest directly in artists. It also allows us to produce exhibits that are immediate and timely, by inviting artists to respond to current issues and themes in their lives.”
Mara Clawson, born in Seoul, Korea, in 1992, is a self-taught artist who paints visual stories using soft pastels, oil pastels, as well as digital technology. Born with familial dysautonomia (FD), a rare genetic neurological disease, Mara’s art is a means for her to connect and express herself to others.
Grace Goad, from Nashville was diagnosed with moderately severe autism, intellectual disabilities, and severe speech/language disorder at age two. She began painting when she was four. Because autism subtly affects the muscle tone of portions of her grasp, Grace's work is largely abstract. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout the United States.
Canaan Vaage is an artist from Santa Cruz, California. A member of the Claraty Arts Project, Vaage has worked with printmaking, acrylic paints, pencil, and mixed media. He is currently working on a body of work about nature, and certain things that reflect his personal beliefs, and interests.
Two of the artists featured in the Connections show are involved with Creativity Explored, a studio-based collective in San Francisco that partners with developmentally disabled artists to celebrate and nurture the creative potential in all of us. Kaocrew “Yah” Kakabutra uses diverse media including colored pencil, acrylics, pastels, and watercolor. Vincent Jackson is one of the longest practicing artists in the Creativity Explored collective. He is known for his large-scale figurative oil pastels.
A second exhibit is being by Arts for All Kentucky, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing arts and education programs that allow people with disabilities to fully participate in the arts. Featured artists include Pat Banks, Jack Cochran, Michael Dixon, Frosty Rankin, Tammy Ruggles, Hanna Wright, and Terry Joe Sled.
Delaire Rowe, Executive Director of Arts for All Kentucky says that her organization is excited to take part in the Connections exhibit. “The artists participating in the show are members of our Artist Registry, an online directory of adult artists with disabilities living in Kentucky. Benefits of being on the Artist Registry include professional development and exhibition opportunities. We are grateful to the Art Center of the Bluegrass for help us with that goal and we are looking forward to sharing the outstanding work of these artists.”
The third exhibit will feature artwork by local students. Drawing on their long-standing relationships with special education teachers in the Danville and Boyle County school districts, the Art Center invited students to create artwork for the show, using supplies provided by the organization.
In preparing for the Connections show, the Art Center conducted an accessibility audit with the support of the Kentucky Arts Councils’ Peer Advisory Network program. “Accessibility has been a core organizational value from our founding,” explains Executive Director Niki Kinkade. “We wanted to have outside eyes reviewed our building and some of our communication platforms with an eye to making sure they were welcoming to all potential visitors.” Through the audit process, the Art Center revised its accessibility plan and evaluation measures for several programs.
The Art Center has planned a range of programs to accompany the exhibit, including free field trips for students and free open-studio art sessions for adults with disabilities and their care-partners. The Art Center plans to use the winter exhibit as a springboard for increased inclusive programming, including sensory-friendly museum days, availability of ASL interpretation, and accessible field trip experiences for all ages.
The Connections exhibit was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hudson-Ellis Fund of the Blue Grass Community Foundation, and Corning Incorporated Foundation.
“Curating an exhibit of this scope in a small community is a significant undertaking,” says Kinkade. “We are fortunate to have the support of many partners at the local, regional, and national level working together to bring this opportunity to Danville.”
The Art Center of the Bluegrass is a multi-faceted nonprofit organization. With a mission to connect people to art, culture, and creativity, the Art Center serves as a creative hub for the Southern Bluegrass region. Housed in a restored 1909 federal building in the heart of historic downtown Danville, the Art Center hosts rotating exhibits, a wide range of classes for children and adults, and arts-related special events. Admission to Art Center exhibits is free.