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‘Art by the disABLED’ exhibit returns to BIG ARTS

By Staff | Apr 26, 2017

'Blue Daisy Vase” by Jackie Pratt.

After a successful exhibit last year at BIG ARTS, “Art by the disABLED” will return May 3. The exhibit will run throughout the whole month at BIG ARTS’ Phillips Art Gallery.

“It was so well received last year, that we decided to continue on again this May,” said Lee Memorial Health System’s Art in Healthcare Program Coordinator Doug MacGregor.

An artist reception will be held Saturday, May 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at BIG ARTS’ Phillips Art Gallery, 900 Dunlop Road. The exhibit will feature 20-25 artists and approximately 45 pieces of artwork will be on display. Many of the pieces will depict scenes of Southwest Florida landscapes. Some of the mediums include mosaics, braille paper, abstract and mixed media.

“They’re not all realistic,” MacGregor said.

He said that the artwork will be priced between $50-$400.

“Regal Rooster” by Janice Orozco.

“We’ve had some that go for more than that,” MacGregor said.

The program, which began over a decade ago, allows people with physical and emotional disabilities to showcase their talents. In addition to being shown at BIG ARTS, the artwork is also hung at every hospital in the Lee Memorial Health System. The art is also displayed in the cardiovascular unit on Bass Road across from HealthPark and at the Riverwalk Rehabilitation Center on College Parkway in Fort Myers.

“We’re pretty proud that we have that many galleries,” MacGregor said.

After their show last May, The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company began displaying the art as well.

“We get a lot of positive comments. We have a lot of client meetings in that conference room and it’s always a topic of interest,” said Sanibel Captiva Trust Company Executive Vice President Steve Greenstein.

“Sunflower Fantasy” by Carol Sue Henry.

MacGregor said the artwork is done by people with varying degrees of challenges.

“Most of them are visually impaired. We have a lot of artists that are on the autistic spectrum and we have some folks that are physically and intellectually disabled,” he said.

A majority of the art comes from people participating in the Special Populations program in Cape Coral and the Lighthouse Center in North Fort Myers. Both centers have a large focus in the art department.

Special Populations was established in 1979 and teaches adults with disabilities life and work skills. The center’s recreation specialist, Vincent Marcucci, has found the art program to be a confidence booster.

“They’re doing what they can in their realm and it’s great. It’s their best effort,” Marcucci said. “We do things in an abstract theme.”

The Lighthouse Center is a non-profit vision rehabilitation agency that trains individuals with blindness and vision impairment. The facility teaches orientation and mobility and daily living skills. The Lighthouse Center’s Community Relations Coordinator Amy Turner said that through the art program, barriers have been broken.

“It gives them a sense of purpose and it gives them an opportunity to participate in something that they really enjoy. We are so grateful to Doug MacGregor and the Art for the disABLED program. It has really given our artists an opportunity to give back to the community with their talent,” Turner said.

Many of the artists at the Lighthouse Center paint from memory or bring in photos. Several of them are winners of the Chicago-based juried art show, “Passionate Focus.”

Proceeds from the exhibit will go towards the program. A portion will also go to the artists.

“We’ll use the money for enhancing our Arts in Healthcare program,” MacGregor said.

Aside from the exhibit and galleries, the program also holds a calendar contest each fall. The top 12 pieces will be chosen for the calendar. The grand prize winner will have the opportunity to have their artwork on permanent display on the fifth floor of the Rehabilitation Hospital at Lee Memorial.

“They have a lot of things to strive for during the year,” MacGregor said. “We try to keep them pretty busy, they always have something to paint. We encourage them to paint something new every other month.”

Over the years, MacGregor has found the program to be very beneficial and therapeutic for those who participate.

“They benefit with the challenges they face on a daily basis. It helps them get through the physical and emotional pain that they might be going through. It allows them to strive to be artists even though they are challenged physically and emotionally. Art is such a healing force,” MacGregor said.

For more information about “Art by the disABLED” call Doug MacGregor at (239) 343-2633, or send an email to art@leememorial.org.