In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|August 7-13, 2008
A new kind of paintbrush
Artists with disabilities express themselves on the canvas
by Barbara Byrnes-Lenarcic
Every Wednesday in a classroom at the Dairy Center for the Arts, there is an extraordinary happening. Using adaptive equipment, Toby Johnson, Dasha Stanley, Gerald Stopa and other artists turn flowing red, green, orange and purple lines into intriguing, abstract works of art.
The art class is one of the offerings in Imagine!’s Community Opportunity Relationship Education Day Services Program known as C.O.R.E. Started in 2001, C.O.R.E provides adults with cognitive, developmental and physical disabilities diverse opportunities to tap into their talents and connect with the Boulder County community.
Relationship in Art, the Imagine! artists’ first show, opens on Friday, Aug. 8, in the Dairy’s Polly Addison Exhibition Space. Featuring 21 works on acid-free paper by 16 artists, Imagine!’s show has been made possible through partnerships. The Dairy is not charging Imagine! for the space or taking a commission on works sold. Superior-based Colorado Custom Frame Works framed the works for a professional look.
Founded in 1963, Imagine! is a private, not-for-profit organization that provides support services such as job training, recreation activities and community living opportunities for more than 2,300 disabled people of all ages.
Toby Johnson inspired Chris Murphy, a C.O.R.E instructor, to think beyond paintbrushes and markers. About three months ago, class participants were painting a mural using bamboo sticks. Johnson was not able to hold the stick. Seeing Johnson’s difficulty, Richard Lowe, a C.O.R.E. staff member, wrapped masking tape around the end of the stick and placed it in Johnson’s mouth. This adaptation allowed Johnson to join his colleagues in the art activity.
Murphy took Lowe’s idea a step further by replacing the masking tape with a nontoxic cedar handle. Then Murphy, who has a background in construction and fine arts, turned the stick into a tool that could be placed in an artist’s hand. Continuing to use cedar, Murphy fashioned handles of various shapes on 1/4 inch dowels. He attached markers and paintbrushes to the dowels with binder clips.
When Murphy placed the stylus in Dasha Stanley’s hand, it was a marvelous moment. Stanley’s face lit up as she turned colored marks into art.
Encouraged by Stanley’s response, Murphy made more tools to meet the artists’ special needs. He created a grip out of refrigeration insulation that wraps around a paintbrush, marker or a cedar handle. Murphy constructed easels in three different heights to adapt to wheelchairs. He made a color chart based on the primary and secondary colors from the Prismacolor Marker set that allows the artist to point to a block and choose a color for the marker that is placed in his or her adaptive tool.
Many of the artists have increased their range of motion as they move their hands farther and in different directions using Murphy’s devices.
“If you don’t have a reason to move your hand, you are not going to do it very much,” Murphy said. “The adaptive tool is a reason and way for the artist to move his or her hand and arm. And when you are moving your hand, you are also moving your brain.”
Murphy is continually amazed at the depth of the artists’ expressions on paper.
“I had made an assumption that what one looks like on the outside is indicative of what is on the inside, and that is not the case,” Murphy said.
The exhibition’s title reflects the relationship between helper and artist. Still, although most of the artists need assistance, such as in the “hand over hand” method where a helper puts his hand over the artist’s hand as the artist moves the marker, the works are not the helpers’ creations.
“We do not make the work. It is the artist’s mark,” Murphy said.
Murphy co-juried the show with Jane Saltzman, the Dairy’s gallery coordinator.
“The work Chris and I chose was based on visceral responses and, to some extent, the stories behind the work, the stories of the artist, how they began and where they have come to,” Saltzman said.
Gerald Stopa, who started using a stylus to create lines, now holds a marker on his own and produces flowing strokes with colors that he chooses. Stanley, who gravitated toward purple in her creations, now brings other colors into her work. Margaret Brandon expressed her love of red shoes in a self-portrait.
“The distance the artists have traveled to create these pieces is absolutely inspiring,” said Saltzman. “And it should go without saying, each piece is a stunning work of art.”
In the Box:
Relationship in Art will be on display through Aug. 21 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826.
back to top