Cultural Arts Center exhibit celebrates artists with disabilities

Rachel Yang, Reporter

The Noyes Cultural Arts Center will host an exhibit featuring works by artists with emotional, psychological and developmental disabilities.

“Expressions from the Heart,” created and curated by local antiques dealer Harvey Pranian, will showcase more than 100 works of art created by artists with disabilities. Pranian said the exhibit is not only the first of its kind for the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., but the first for Evanston as well.

“The main thing is there are a lot of people that don’t know that people who have these kinds of disabilities do some amazing things,” Pranian said. “They’re part of our society, and they need to be affirmed. And that’s one of the inspirations for my viewing.”

Young Evanston Artists, Whole Foods Market Evanston and the city are sponsoring the exhibit. The opening reception will occur Friday from 6-9 p.m. at the art center.

The artists at the exhibit have benefited from organizations that support people with mental and developmental disabilities, such as Project Onward, Little City, The Arts of Life and Equestrian Connection.

John Sharp, arts coordinator for The Arts of Life, is familiar with a number of featured paintings and artists. The exhibit will showcase “an exciting mix” of art forms such as abstract, realism and watercolor, he said.

Pranian noted a variety of work, which ranges from sculpture to painting to drawings. Pranian spoke of how “direct and unpretentious” their work is because they are not worried about its value.

“What happens with a lot of artists is once they begin to make something that sells, the marketplace is involved, and then it takes the inspiration, in my opinion,” he said. “What can I do that sells (artists ask), rather than what excites me and what inspires me?”

Rob Lentz, a director at Chicago-based Project Onward, also praised the exhibit’s artists. Lentz said most artists overthink their work, but “these artists know exactly what they want to do.”

“It’s really fascinating to be around them,” he said.

Both men acknowledged a lack of representation for artists with disabilities and said they hope this exhibit can help increase awareness. Most of the artists will be at the exhibit, Pranian said, so it gives them a chance to engage with the public, increase their professional visibility and feel like their work is valued.

All of the works are available for sale, with prices ranging from under $100 to slightly more than $1,000, Pranian said. He added that a number of the proceeds will go to the artists.

The exhibition will be on display from Friday through Wednesday, Nov. 5, and the gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission to the reception and exhibition is free and open to the public.

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