Saturday, August 12, 2000

Disabled use art to make statement

'They need to know they're all humans'

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To the uninformed eye, the artwork in Cinergy's corporate lobby in downtown Cincinnati might look like scribbles.

        But for Carolyn Carter-Black and other physically disabled artists, the paintings represent so much more.

[photo] Brenda Derrickson giggles at her artwork, “God Sees the Way in Everyone” on display in Cinergy's lobby at Fourth and Main streets.
(Malinda Rackley photo)
| ZOOM |
        Self-expression. Independence. Pride.

        Sixteen United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati artists are represented with 36 paintings in the display that opened this week, an exhibit funded in part by the city of Cincinnati.

        The 62-year-old Ms. Carter-Black sat in her wheelchair, using a communication book and pointing to pictures in the book Thursday to convey her happiness about “Rainbow,” a painting she created with green, purple, pink, blue and yellow stains.

        A sign next to her painting said, “I see God and my mama (in the painting). ... I enjoy creating art because it's something I can do myself and it is important because my Momma helped me. My dreams are to create pictures.”

  • What: Experience Art exhibit.
  • When: Through Aug. 31.
  • Where: Cinergy lobby, 139 E. Fourth St., downtown.
  • Admission: Free.

        UCP began the Experience Art project in 1998. All the artists are physically disabled, but not all have cerebral palsy.

        Some of the artists who cannot use their hands have more of a challenge. Ron Flowers, 45, uses a mouthpiece — which can hold a marker or paintbrush — to create his artwork.

        Artist Robert Harris started the project. Mr. Harris, who uses a wheelchair, is the art teacher at the UCP center in Avondale and an advocate for the disabled.

        “Every one of us needs to know we have power over ourselves, whether it's over a piece of paper or the ability to express an idea,” said Mr. Harris, who is a program specialist with the National Conference for Community and Justice.

        “That freedom is empowering. Though these people might have body parts that don't work, they need to know they're all humans.”

        For 46-year-old artist Fred Brown of Springdale, pride comes from knowing that other people will see his drawings. His favorite, “Chases Rabbits,” is a sketch of a fox created with a red pencil.

        Mr. Harris' challenge is to dispel stereotypes about disabled people through the exhibit. The public often stereotypes them as nonfunctioning members of society, he said.

        “I'm also trying to help people with disabilities become self-actualized and realize that they are viable, functioning, contributing members of society,” Mr. Harris said.

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