Young artists rise above challenge Exhibit to show work by disabled

July 11, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

For most of her 18 years, Lori Powell has not spoken a clear word easily. But through painting, she chats and talks like there's no tomorrow.

Ms. Powell was born with cerebral palsy, a motor disorder that affects the central nervous system.

Because it has impaired her speech and affected her ability to walk, she signs to communicate and uses a crutch to help her walk.

Three years ago, she began painting to help express her feelings and hasn't put down the paint brush since, said her mother, Deborah Powell.

Beginning today, the public will get a chance to view one of Ms. Powell's creations, a watercolor painting titled "Bird in Flight."

The painting will be on display through July 24 at the third annual Challenged Artists Show at the Rockland Center in Ellicott City.

The free show will feature almost 30 pieces of art by Ms. Powell and 18 other young people who are physically and mentally disabled. Some of the works will be on sale.

Ms. Powell -- whose mother helps translate her speech -- sai painting has liberated her and brought her joy.

"I'm glad my art will be on display," the Centennial High School senior said. "I enjoy painting."

"It's good for her confidence and self-esteem," Mrs. Powell sai of her daughter. "Art is something she can do independently."

Workers at the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks helped organize the show, which will coincide with National Therapeutic Recreation Week, which begins today.

"It's an opportunity to give individuals with disabilities a chancto display their artwork in a professional setting and be recognized," said Gina Wagner, coordinator of the county's recreation and parks therapeutic programs.

The art show also is a forum for the disabled to be viewed aordinary people, said the artists' teacher Sherry Schneider.

"Everyone in the world is disabled in some way. I can't do math," Ms. Schneider said. But because her "disability" isn't visible, she said, she's not treated differently.

Using the Betty Edwards drawing technique, Ms. Schneideinstructs about a dozen art students who are disabled how to trace lines on photographs. By doing so, the details become imprinted on the right side of their brains, allowing them to paint what they've traced, she said.

The Saturday art classes, which are held at the Owen Brown Middle School, began about four years ago after parents sought a creative avenue for their disabled children to express themselves.

Being accepted by society is a key obstacle for the estimated 43 million disabled Americans, the disabled and their supporters said.

Mrs. Powell said her daughter has difficulty meeting friends her age, because teen-agers usually don't have the patience to wait and try to understand her.

Jennifer Stern, 17, who has two paintings in the art show, saishe paints to surprise people.

Normally, people "don't see what I'm able to do, they see my disability," she explained.

Her speech and walk were impaired after a car struck her in he driveway when she was young. The "I can do" approach has helped 19-year-old Aaron Thornton avoid letting his physical restraints stymie his production. Although, cerebral palsy has impeded his ability to walk and speak, he's full of life.

"I love art," he said with a big smile last week.

For the art show, he painted a piece called "Autumn Splendor," frame of warm colors depicting leaves falling from a tree.

His mother, Jackie Thornton, said through art he's learned hoto concentrate and be creative.

"I guess art is in the eye of the beholder," she said.

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