Every Life is a Work of Art at the Gallery at the J

Every Life is a Work of Art at the Gallery at the J

By Debbie Kizer, Executive Director, Imagine Art

A little treasure has been transplanted from Imagine Art, a non-profit service organization, into Shalom Austin's Gallery at the J. The Imagine Art exhibition will be on view from July 17 through August 21 with the opening reception on Sunday, July 30, 2-3 p.m. Ten to twelve artists from the community of Imagine Art will have their work featured.

Imagine Art was founded in Austin in 1996. Its simple grassroots beginning reached out to identify 10 artists with disabilities that needed help to access the arts. Year after year the project evolved to enfold more artists and to meet the ever-evolving needs of a group that was moving from under-served to servant leadership.

Today, the Imagine Art community is comprised of 75 artists who share working art space at 2830 Real Street. A 9,000 square foot studio space serves as a creative incubator where these artists are pioneering a new path. Art, disability and spiritual guidance merge to offer a path of transformation. The motto is “Every Life is a Work of Art” and their mission: to restore the lives of artists with disabilities for the glory of God.

Many artists arrive a bit weary from the world. They are often isolated and without resources they need to make art (materials, space, education and inspiration). Many are stuck in cycles of hopelessness as they battle issues related to poverty (food, insecurity, homelessness or home-safety) and issues related to disability (medication management, physically debilitating conditions and relational aloneness). Some artists battle issues related to trauma from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Harriett Kirsh Pozen, Generations Campaign Director at Shalom Austin, has a longtime connection with Imagine Art through her son Scott Pozen, an abstract artist and member of the Imagine Art community. Harriett says "There are so many stories; one for each artist present in fact. Each life is a powerful work of art in itself. Together these lives are producing a masterpiece that causes the viewer to pause, ponder and wonder; what if…."

The community of Imagine Art is diverse in its spectrum of disabilities. Larin Harp produces whimsical ceramic cars. Larin is deaf and blind and lives with Autism. He independently moves about the studio and is hard at work 3 days a week for 7 hours each, breaking for lunch with friends. Others marvel at his work ethic and he is an inspiration to many. Daniel Davis sees through a unique lens; stark, bright shapes mingle with dark lines as reality opens a new door, giving creative flight to the imagination. Birds on a line become music and one can hear the song in the stillness. Daniel’s lifetime battle with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and addiction produces a rich soil for transformation. The Imagine Art community provides a home and family that he needed.

Imagine Art has broken the box of disability and segregation. The place is unique and its impact is powerful to all who enter. Having set out to create a "home" where the outcasts were welcomed and nurtured, they soon discovered that artists without disabilities also wanted to be there. Mark Lit, a former Director of the Jewish Community Association of Austin (now Shalom Austin), joined the Imagine Art community in the spring of 2017. Mark is one of 25 artists at Imagine Art without disabilities. Mark aptly says "Imagine Art is on the cutting edge of community development and inclusion for people with disabilities. What is happening here has the power to, not only transform a life, but it has the power to transform a system." E-mail info@imagineart.net for opportunities to volunteer, donate or partner.

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