This is the first in our new Spotlight series in which we have invited folks from some of the Pikes Peak region's diverse arts groups to tell us what they do, who they work with, and what they're all about. This post was written by Jessie Pocock, Development Director at the Club of Arts.
There are 54 million people with disabilities in the United States making it the largest minority group. -Colorado Springs Independent
The unemployment rate for those with disabilities in the United States is 63.1 percent. The El Paso County rate was close to 80 percent in 2008. -The Resource Exchange, Cornell University
In 2009 alone 232 people with disabilities in El Paso County participated in art at TCOA in over 7,500 artistic interactions.
Before attending the grand opening of The Club of Arts in 2005, I rarely considered why I almost never encountered people with developmental disabilities in the community. As a sociology major at Colorado College, I didn’t notice that there were no class offerings in my department that focused on the social issues concerning disabled people. It wasn’t until I entered the community of people with disabilities that I learned how powerful their voices can be.
Since I have been associated with The Club of Arts, (a nonprofit art organization reaching people with disabilities through artistic education, expression, and performance) I have learned so much about the strength, endurance, and power of people with disAbilities. For example, there are students like Allicia, who was on the waiting list for services she had been deemed eligible to receive for fourteen years. Allicia came to The Club of Arts hungry for independence, in need of a safe place to express herself. She is an incredibly talented silk dye artist. Her parents believe that art and TCOA have saved her life.
There are students who had never engaged in the arts previous to TCOA, like Marty, who is in his forties and started taking classes at TCOA a couple of years ago. Marty began experimenting with gluing wine corks to wooden boards and has now created intricate cork cities and has discovered a fine talent for diorama.
And there is Joe, an incredible oil painter who cannot physically speak because of his disability, but has found that he can communicate powerfully through art. In his self-portrait series, “Beyond My Wheelchair,” Joe paints his body trapped inside of a bottle demonstrating how the world occurs for him as a young man with a disabled body inside a world that is uncomfortable with difference. For Joe, art has become a way for him to communicate and a way for people to listen. Here's Joe at Exposion in summer 2009.
Joe wrote a poem about his experience of showing the world what he can do through his art.
Trapped in a Bottle
I am trapped in the bottle that is my life.
Always on the inside looking out
My bottle does protect me
All the while restricting me.
My bottle doesn’t allow friends
Nor does it allow climbing mountains.
It keeps me from being a drummer
And it doesn’t permit surfing.
My bottle doesn’t like babies
Nor does it like motorcycles.
But I have found a way around my bottle.
My bottle does allow art.
What my bottle doesn’t know
Is that by letting me paint,
It is losing control over me.
Painting frees me from my bottle.
I can paint thoughts my bottle won’t permit.
I can paint peace and frustration
And I can paint love and hatred.
I can paint spirituality and freedom
And I can paint hope and majesty.
I can paint patriotism and pride
And I can paint security and stereotyping.
I can paint good and evil
And I can paint alienation and connections.
Even though my bottle tries to protect me,
I still have all these thoughts.
And because my bottle allows art,
The world will know my thoughts.
Today, TCOA serves over 200 artists with disabilities, who through the artistic process are finding their own unique form of expression, a place to be heard, and a tangible artistic contribution to make that is appreciated and respected.
For more information about The Club of Arts please visit us online or stop in and visit. Our students love visitors! We are located at 505 E. Columbia St., 80907.