Disabled Artists at Turner Center for the Arts Display, Sell Their Work Tomorrow Night

Dec 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

If you're interested in buying your loved ones some art this holiday season and don't happen to be a millionaire, head on down to the Turner Center for the Arts' annual holiday exhibition in Maplewood tomorrow night, December 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be in the studio at 3109 Sutton Boulevard. About 100 pieces will be on display, all created by the disabled artists who take classes and work in the Turner Center's open studio.

"The crowd that works here is really diverse," says Nate Larson, the Turner Center's executive director. "Some have had college training or been to art school. They do more detailed and realistic work, portraits or still lifes. And some people do some really cool outsider art-style painting."

The artists at the Turner Center work in a wide range of media. Paint markers, both acrylic and oil-based, have become increasingly popular over the past few months ("They have nice vibrant colors," Larson explains, "and they're easier to control"), but there will also be more traditional paintings, pencil drawings and even some clay sculpture.

The Turner Center has been doing quarterly exhibits since it opened four-and-a-half years ago. Currently, says Larson, between 60 and 70 people attend classes. They range in age from 16 to 75 and the Center makes sure they only pay what they can afford. (There is also a separate children's program.)

"We serve people who have brain injuries, Down's syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, plain old depression," says Larson. "We try to be as open as possible." About twenty percent of participants have physical disabilities.

Everyone who comes to the Turner Center will have at least one piece on display tomorrow and most of the artists plan to be on hand to talk about their work. "We make a big point of getting artists to the show," Larson says. "It's a social event for them. They love talking about their art. You hear some really cool stories."

One artist in particular whose story has struck Larson is a man named Dave. Dave is in his mid-50s and suffered a brain injury.

Dave at work. - image via
Dave at work.

"When he first started, he was really, really self-conscious," Larson remembers. "He said, 'I did art in middle school and I was terrible at it, and I'll probably be terrible now.' He was really inhibited."

Dave's art teacher gave him a long roll of paper to draw on. "He started drawing," says Larson, "really simple, angular, abstract lines. He kept drawing and drawing. Three years later, he finished the roll. It's 140 feet long. At the end of the roll, there are these intricate, colorful, cool, psychedelic line drawings. They're geometric but organic at the same time. You can see the progression of him discovering his style and finding his medium and becoming more comfortable with the way he expresses his creativity."