ELORA – Artists with disabilities are celebrated in a new exhibition at the Elora Centre for the Arts (ECFTA).
The exhibition, entitled Soar – Celebrating our Ability to Fly, Sing and Soar, is on now until April 2.
“In art, as in life, when we are celebrated for who we are, we can find courage to express ourselves creatively and connect with the world around us,” said ECFTA programming and arts administrator Judy Anderson.
The artists are from ECFTA’s supportive arts program, “for adults with (dis)abilities,” states a press release.
“The exhibition is an uplifting expression of individual and collective work, celebrating the human desire to fly, to sing, to speak, to nest, to migrate, to live free and to soar,” the release states.
It features over 170 “artistic forms of avian creatures, created to acknowledge their unique traits and skills that make them powerful.”
Anderson said “the exhibition challenges us to see things from a different perspective, a bird’s-eye view.”
Paper mache birds hang from the ceiling, a flock of three dimensional birds are on one wall, and circular pieces depicting birds fly on vibrant horizons, all created by about 65 artists.
Simon Greaves, one of the artists, said he “painted a parrot red, blue and yellow” and Canada Geese flying in front of a “fiery” British Columbia sunset.
For his paper mache bird he chose pictures from magazines of people riding horses. The bird is a bald eagle – his favourite bird, he noted.
Greaves said he enjoys spending time with friends at ECFTA.
He paints every day and feels “much better” when he’s creating art, he added.
Greaves’ art is available for sale at ECFTA and includes paintings of buildings in Elora such as Magic Pebble bookstore, the Elora Mill, the Mermaid, and the Elora Café.
Greaves also paints scenes from fairs, like amusement rides, pig races and John Deere tractors and combine harvesters.
His two most recent paintings are of an elephant and a cow.
Greaves was excited that his moms Joy and Lorraine came to see his art in the exhibition, noting, “my family liked everything.”
Anderson said the highlight of the process for her is “connecting to these individuals and getting to know them personally,” adding that she has “developed some pretty strong relationships” during her five years with ECFTA.
“This exhibition is a culmination of relationships we build and hard work we’ve been doing over the last years,” Anderson said.
In 2020, ECFTA received an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grow Grant, allowing it to expand its programming for adults with disabilities.
“The funding from the OTF grant gives us such freedom and flexibility to grow the program” Anderson said.
“There is not a lot of support out there for this community,” she noted, and “getting to express themselves with art is important,” especially to those participants who face barriers communicating with words.
The programming is also valuable because it gives participants a chance to be part of the larger community and to get together with their friends, Anderson said.
“Sometimes the art is not the most important thing,” she noted.
The supportive arts program offers weekly classes to participants throughout the region and has grown over the last three years from one class per week to four.
Anderson said officials are reaching out to people and businesses in the community for support in sustaining the program and keeping it growing.
By spring, the supportive arts program will have provided 321 classes to 3,248 participants.
On March 13, a group of artists in ECFTA’s supportive arts program created a soundscape within the exhibition, using musical instruments and dance.
Arts educator Stephanie Lines-Toohill led the class in “painting with sound,” by making music and movement that mimics birds, rain, thunder and more, to create a “whole lifecycle in one soundscape painting.”
An artist reception for the Soar exhibition will be held in the gallery on March 25 from 1 to 4pm. Everyone is welcome to attend, free of charge. Refreshments will be served.
More information is available at eloracentreforthearts.ca.