Artist with disability sells artwork

On Art & Disability

The art world has a long history of people with disabilities excelling in extraordinary ways, such as Beethoven (hearing impaired), Leonardo da Vinci (dyslexic), Van Gogh (mentally ill), and Matisse (visually impaired). Their accomplishments have earned them a permanent place in our history books. Their disabilities presented them with certain challenges in their daily experience and were an undeniable part of their lives. Still, they persevered and we remember these artists for their cultural contributions, not their disabilities. So how are the arts making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in our modern day? Let’s explore why it’s important to encourage arts inclusion for people of all abilities.

Leonardo da VinciArtist, Van GoghPortrait Beethoven

Art for Everyone

Who doesn’t enjoy a night out at the theater? Or finding the perfect piece of art to hang up in your home? One of the best things about the arts is that there is something for everyone. If people from similar backgrounds keep making the same kinds of art, frankly we’re going to get bored! If we promote artists with disabilities, we’ll all benefit from their fresh points of view. The work they create will inspire new thoughts and constructive conversations that will drive us closer to a mutual understanding.

Color For Cash

Artist sells paitning
Isabell finds out her painting sold!

You might not know it, but most artists’ favorite color is green. If you want to make a struggling artist smile, pay them for their work. As people with disabilities struggle to find meaningful employment, some are finding a career in the arts. The flexible nature of a job in the arts helps people with disabilities to circumvent the barriers that would keep an individual from holding a traditional job. You can set your own hours and work in a space that’s comfortable for you. Always keep in mind though, that the challenges that come along with becoming a professional artist are still ever present; artists must cope with an inconsistent income, fickle clientele, and constant rejection. It isn’t a job for everyone, but for those who succeed, it can be a rewarding profession.

Speaking with Distinction

Disability presents itself in a multitude of ways that can limit a person’s ability to communicate with the written or spoken word. This lack of direct communication isolates individuals from the communities in which they live. Sometimes, people who aren’t exposed to people with disabilities and special needs will refuse to engage, assuming that they won’t be able to carry on a conversation. Even if an individual has trouble speaking, their art can do the talking for them. These kinds of connections are invaluable when trying to bring people together. Art brings us together in a way that reveals what we all have in common and allows us to celebrate our differences. It speaks to us all on a deeply human level and reveals the common thread that connects us all: the desire to express oneself and be understood.

New Jersey is home to a great number of talented artists with disabilities. They work all throughout the state, assisted by organizations that help with the creation, exhibiting, and sale of their artwork. Easterseals New Jersey is proud to partner with organizations like Arts Access in Peapack and Arts Unbound in West Orange. Their mission of providing artists with disabilities opportunities to create and sell artwork is a noble one and we encourage you to check out the remarkable work they and their artists are doing. We recently held a sponsor appreciation night known as Thrive, where we exhibited artwork created within our programs and theirs. Click here to view photos from the event and celebrate the art and artists with us.

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