Artist Leon McCutcheon and Senator Tom Duane pictured in front of McCutcheons work.
Overcoming disability to create fine art
Chelsea group exhibits impressive work in renovated gallery
By Lauren Dzura
Artists, family members and friends gathered recently at Pure Vision Arts on West 17th St. to marvel at the opening exhibit of its newly renovated studio. Pure Vision Arts, is an artist gallery in Chelsea working in conjunction with The Shield, a not for profit organization. The two groups help artists with developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. New York State Senator Tom Duane came to the opening to honor the creativity and hard work of PVA and the artists.
The Chelsea studio space provides disabled New York metro artists the opportunity to create fine art as opposed to simple arts and crafts projects. The media used in the pieces ranges from watercolors, acrylic and oil paints to crayons. PVA helps them create resumes and portfolios. The organization is supported by state and city funding, such as the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
We focus on ability rather than disability, said Pamala Rogers, a program director. Everyone works at their own pace.
Senator Tom Duane received a warm welcome and showed his support for the artists center, commenting on the beautiful space. Duane, a Chelsea native, said he once taught English as a Second Language and GED classes on the same block as Pure Vision.
People with special qualities make the most beautiful things on earth because their point of view is not seen in the mainstream world, Duane said.
The artists were clearly enjoying showing off their work to guests. They took pictures with proud family members and friends and eagerly pointed out their work. Artist Susan Brown grabbed the arm of her brother to show him her painting of the Port Jefferson Ferry. Like most of the artists, Browns work was based on a real life experience, a trip she had taken to visit family in Connecticut.
According to Browns resume, she has been drawing since she was five and gets inspiration from her prodigious childhood memories. Her artwork is also displayed in private and corporate collections.
Another artist, Leon McCutcheon, displayed acrylic paintings of life in the south and Haiti. McCutcheon was exposed to art as a child by his mother who took him to art museums and encouraged him to make art. He has sold pieces to collectors for up to $1,000. He is best known for his bright and bold use of color.
I like mixing colors, its one of my favorite things to do, McCutcheon said.
Creating art has been a dream come true for McCutcheon because it has allowed people to look at him as a creator as opposed to just a person with a disability, he said
Pure Vision provides ongoing support for its artists. Their work has also been shown at the Outsider Art Fair, which showcases self-taught artists, Cooper Union and the American Folk Art Museum.
The main goal of Pure Vision is to provide access and inclusion in the mainstream art community for people with developmental disabilities. This encouragement of creative expression gives the rest of the world the opportunity to look into their minds to see their significant accomplishments to the art world and reduce the stigma of mental disorders.
Of the artwork, Rogers said, The beauty and originality speak for themselves.