11th annual Art and Soul exhibit highlights adult artists with developmental disabilities

Isias B. beams with pride at his big win

By Katie Fender

For the past 11 years, a selected group of talented Ohio artists have presented their artwork in a beautifully unique exhibit that displays truly original art. This exhibit features adult artists that are living with developmental disabilities allowing them to explore their creativity with zero boundaries.

The annual Art and Soul exhibit is only one of a few shows in Ohio that solely features artists with developmental disabilities. Established in 2008, this show was put together between two nonprofit organizations, Toward Independence and Partners for Community Living. Judy Leasure, one of the coordinators of the exhibit elaborated a little on the collaboration of the agencies.

“We have art experience here in the Miami Valley and we have experience of working with people with disabilities, so it was really a natural partnership with Partners for Community Living and Toward Independence. They were both really interested in doing something like this,” said Leasure.

The surrounding Dayton community has excelled at finding outlets for these artists to use their creative expression. Leasure explained that they find some of their artists through art programs that have been put together by Ohio county boards who establish what they call adult day services. The adult day services include some local art programs and a large art program in Hamilton, Ohio called the Inside Out Studio.

These services and specifically the Art and Soul exhibit are actively breaking down barriers and stigmas for anyone with developmental disabilities.

“Art is one of those communication forms that we can all relate to no matter what our level of communication is,” said Leasure. “We can all speak through art and this exhibit really showcases that. This is not disabled art. We don’t want to have that stereotype that this is less than quality art. This is deeply felt and beautifully done art.”

This exhibit provides a great opportunity for these artists to not only diminish any stigmas they are facing, but also showcase and market their work. More than $1000 in cash awards are presented each year to award winners and all the art at the exhibit is for sale. The Art and Soul exhibit is free and open to the public, and the net profits go directly to the artists.

At the show, there will be around 40 pieces of art that were chosen by the jury to be displayed in this event. The exhibit displays mostly fine art paintings, however, they do accept 3D pieces and will have several on presentation this year.

This exhibit has gained popularity and is continuing to receive more and more entries each year. This year the jurors who have chosen the entries include Deborah Brod, Cincinnati-based professional artist and graduate of the Sorbonne Paris; Shawna Hatton, a Dayton-based professional artist and instructor at the Dayton Art Institute; and Glen Cebulash, professor at Wright State and also Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Wright State University.

A painter himself, Cebulash explains a little on what he is looking for as a juror in
this show.

“You get quite a variety of pieces and I would say that by and large I’m really looking for originality or a unique perspective on a particular subject with some sense of the depth of expressive feeling. Sometimes the pieces are technically very accomplished, but often it’s not simply technical accomplishments I’m looking for. In fact, more often than not I’m looking for more than technical,” Celubash explained.

While its Celubash’s job in the exhibit to be a juror, he also appreciates what the exhibit is doing for the artists that participate and for the community.

“I think it’s wonderful that they’re providing an opportunity for adults with special needs to not only encourage them to engage in artist activity for the purpose of self-expression, but also to encourage displaying that work in a kind of communicative aspect,” said Celubash.

The Art and Soul exhibit will take place from March 17 to April 1, 2018 at the Downtown Dayton Metro Library. The opening reception and awards ceremony will take place on Saturday, March 24 in the gallery space at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit daytonmetrolibrary.org, or call 937.463.2665.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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