Artists can have vision even if they are blind.
Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living artistic director Ilse Philipps says her role as instructor at eight-year-old Vicuna Art Studio and gallery allows her group of developmentally challenged aspiring artists to become the commissioned greats they hope to be.
“We just see that individual as an artist and their aspirations to be an artist,” Philipps said when explaining the strategy behind working with individuals who have challenges ranging from autism and Downe’s syndrome to mobility issues and blindness.
The studio’s group of 40 artists, who spent six months creating the mostly acrylic paintings available for sale, will be featured at a June 5 and 6 exhibition called Los Colores de Primavera, or Spring Colors.
In addition to their works, which vary from abstract to re-creations of the masters, pottery pieces, created by artists from Pottery Works Studio – Community Living Society, will also be on display.
Both groups represent the only two organizations in B.C. that specifically work with developmentally challenged artists for the purpose of creating and selling inspired works of art.
“It’s really quite wonderful. You put the canvas in front of them and everybody has something to offer,” says Philipps.
Although new to the organization and the shows they host, Philipps has already witnessed the therapeutic effects of creating art.
The program is therapeutic.
“They come in here and they are just artists – not whatever their diagnosis is,” she added.
The program’s students are guided according to whatever their challenge or challenges might be. If visually impaired, for example, students are “encouraged to use their hands to see” and pay special attention to their other senses, explains Phillips.
If they come to class upset about the day’s events, they are encouraged to “use their art to express themselves.”
In future, RMACL hopes to have more locations where their finished works are featured. Currently, they have a wall of work featured at the Blenz Coffee location in Maple Ridge, as well in the Bentall buildings in Vancouver.