Camille Edwards is a typical teenager who doesn’t always listen to her mother.
But when it comes to creating art, the 17-year old J.F. Webb High School student is all ears.
“I have been discussing with Camille and her fellow students, who I teach art to a few times a week, that artists often paint what they love,” says Lynda Edwards, a retired public school art teacher.
And from this parental nugget, a watercolor portrait of Mike emerged.
“I love Mike,” says Camille, who is inseparable from her beloved chow and Labrador retriever mix.
“Mike” is one of three pieces that Camille is showing in the newly opened “Gather,” art exhibit at the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park, 1309 Halley St. in Durham. A public reception is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, during the Third Friday Durham art walk.
Put on by Arts Access ( www.artsaccessinc.org), the show features 42 pieces from young people with disabilities around the Triangle who are involved in inclusive arts education programs.
A dreamcatcher and a second watercolor painting, this one of a heart with angel wings and a cross, round out Camille’s contributions to the show.
“I did this painting because it shows how much I love God,” Camille says. “I know God doesn’t make any mistakes, and I know that God made me perfect just like everybody else. Everybody is different. We all have good differences, but not everyone sees it that way. That is their problem. Some differences just take extra attention.”
“Camille knows she is different, and it bothers her sometimes,” her mother says. “But I just keep encouraging her.”
There are few opportunities for Camille, who has autism, and her classmates, who have a variety of disabilities, to make art and then once made, to exhibit it for family, friends, and community. So when Lynda was on the board of the N.C. Arts Council and learned about Arts Access, she was thrilled.
This 32-year old organization spreads information related to arts and disability, holds workshops on inclusion and access, offers audio descriptions for visual performances for blind or low-vision patrons, and more.
“Our education workshops focus on strategies for including people with disabilities in arts education,” says Betsy Ludwig, executive director. “Many teachers tell us that they don’t have the background and experience and feel like they are not going to be able to handle it or feel they don’t have the support they will need.”
Ludwig is particularly excited about the venue for this show because Lyon Park is in a very diverse part of Durham and has a lot of foot traffic. Other students in the show come from Durham Parks and Recreation, as well as 10 students from the Governor Morehead School for the blind and visually impaired in Raleigh.
“We have a clay station and a huge hand loom as well as many means of drawing, including thing sheets of aluminum,’ says Alice Zincone, a certified teacher of the visually impaired at the school. “Students will draw on the back side of the sheets with a stylus or ball point pen, then they can feel what they have drawn on the front.” There are also diverse materials available to create collages and Wikki Stix, pliable string that can be molded into shapes, which are then laid on paper. Students then color in and around the forms they have created.
“I think that one thing that people don’t really think through, is that kids want to do what anybody else is doing,” Zincone said. “They know that their brothers and sisters take art in their schools, so they want to take art here. People with visual impairment can do most anything that anyone can do. They just might do these things in a different way.”
The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation provided support for this show. The Lyon Community Center, Raleigh’s Visual Art Exchange, and Durham’s First in Families provided manpower and expertise.
Brandon Cordrey, program director of Arts Access said the name of the exhibit “Gather” was chosen because it is a gathering of people, talent, and artwork.
“The exhibit is such community effort,” Cordrey said. “The Triangle really supports artists, and we have made big pushes in inclusive programming. Everyone has been giving so much of their time to make this happen.”
The Center is open Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
There are many layers to this show but at its very essence, it is about the captivating artwork, which is a really fun body of work with lots of color, diversity of media, and subject matter. It all celebrates life and the creative process.