Ten Year Pin

Virtual Exhibition - April 2020

Virtual First Friday - April 3

Meet the Artists Virtually - April 17

 

A little over a decade ago we met two young women - Nicole and Allie. They were best friends at Kennedy High School here in Denver. Shortly after, we had another young woman come to the Gallery for an internship through Skyland Community High School. Brittany was very shy and by her own admission she almost did not come back after her interview. About the same time, a young man named AJ started coming to us one day a week with a paraprofessional from Lincoln High School in tow. 

 

Each of these young people had an interest in art and in getting out of school. Nicole loved dragons and dinosaurs, Allie loved color and pattern, Brittany came with an interest in her African heritage and did a project on the Yoruba people of Africa, and AJ drew fantastic cityscapes featuring a character affectionately known as Lightbulb head dude. 

 

When each of them finished their public school education we did not expect to see them again. We were wrong. In fact, when they all kept showing up even after their schooling was finished we realized there was a huge hole for young people with disabilities transitioning from high school to the adult world. People with disabilities are unemployed at a rate of nearly 70%. By spending time with these four amazing artists we realized as an organization we had an opportunity to support each of them in their artistic pursuits. 

 

It is a rare thing for anyone to be associated with a nonprofit organization. It is a rarer thing still for a nonprofit to respond to the needs of their client base quite the way we did. After realizing the disability each of these artists has is actually less impactful than the fact they struggle economically. As an organization, we rewrote our mission and changed how we go about the work we do.

 

This show more than any other is the core of what we do. Providing economic opportunity through the arts for people with disabilities. We did not want a now and then show as we are mostly focused on the now. Each artist has created new work for this show and we are thrilled with the results. 

Brittany

founder of Brittany’s Accessories

Back in 2005, when she was still in high school, Brittany was asked to create an artwork inspired by the Yoruba people of Africa. Inspired by the importance of art to her heritage, Brittany started teaching herself to work with beads.

 

Fifteen years later, she has made her passion into a business, Brittany’s Accessories, where she creates art – and even jewelry – with all kinds of mixed media.

 

Brittany is a smart, driven young woman, and is also living with cerebral palsy and limited financial resources. Starting from pony beads – “simply the most affordable bead I can buy” – and an internship with Access Gallery, Brittany has become a self-taught, self-made artist capable of working with any material.

 

When she can, though, Brittany loves to work with imagery from DC Comics and Marvel, as it brings up fond memories of watching cartoons with her brother as a child. Together with her blind boyfriend, she is a vocal advocate for people with disabilities. In our eyes, Brittany is the modern-day Wonder Woman for the disabled and artist communities alike.

28" x 6" x 6"

Mixed Medium

SOLD

Brittany

The paper beads used in this piece are made by refugee women in Uganda. They use recycled magazines, old calendars and paper that have been discarded to make them. 

Unity

12" x 12"

Pony Beads

SOLD

Brittany

Nicole

Dragon Girl

“We have some of her paintings at my house; a man making pottery, a farmhouse, a truck sitting in front of a house.”

 

Though her grandmother died many years ago, Nicole still finds inspiration today from the art she left behind.

 

Likewise, we are inspired by Nicole: even while living below the poverty line, taking care of her mother who has multiple sclerosis, and managing her own developmental disabilities, Nicole works on her art every single day.

 

“I make art because it’s important to me.”

 

With this obsessive passion to create, Nicole has found an artistic voice that enables her to immerse people in her rich fantasy lands. We affectionately call her “Dragon Girl” not just because dragons often star in her work, but because they remind us of her: powerful, unique, and capable of anything. She creates art the way she lives her life: by reaching for the mythical. 

The process to create mythical art? Simple.

 

“It makes me feel good when I create my images and they look like the picture in my head.”

American Gothic

16" x 20"

Acrylic on Canvas

SOLD

Nicole

Starry Starry Night

16" x 20"

Acrylic on Canvas

SOLD

Nicole

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 

16" x 20"

Acrylic on Canvas

SOLD

Nicole

Allie

Jack of all trades, master of all

If her enrollment in a graphic design class at the Career Education Center Early College in Denver tells us anything, it’s that Allie is multi-talented artist.

 

From sketching, to sculpting, to painting, to digital animation and beyond, Allie is always surprising us with the form her art takes.

 

In addition to possessing tremendous technical prowess and self-confidence, Allie is also a young woman with autism. She uses it as a boon to her artistic endeavors, visualizing subjects to then recreate them in her art with impeccable attention to detail. Pieces like her reproduction of the famous Big Blue Bear statue of downtown Denver demonstrate both the breadth of Allie’s artistic capabilities and a range of interests to match, from fractal imagery to local iconography to Japanese anime.

 

Through her involvement both academically and at Access Gallery, Allie hopes to expand her skills as an artist even further so that when she graduates from college, she can become an animation artist or graphic designer.

30" x 30"

Ink on Paper

(Can be direct printed on aluminum.)

Allie

30" x 30"

Ink on Paper

(Can be direct printed on aluminum.)

Allie

30" x 30"

Ink on Paper

(Can be direct printed on aluminum.)

Allie

30" x 30"

Ink on Paper

(Can be direct printed on aluminum.)

Allie

30" x 30"

Ink on Paper

(Can be direct printed on aluminum.)

Allie

A.J.

creator of "Light Bulb Head Dude"

It is not unusual for A.J. to travel 20 or more miles a day. He has an natural intuition for bus routes, a strong admiration of trains, and will stop whatever he is doing to watch a large truck roll past.

 

A.J. uses his exploits around Denver as inspiration for his art. He illustrates characters, cityscapes, and the urban life they create from the unique perspective of a young man with autism. 

 

It is thanks to A.J.’s industrious imagination that we get to enjoy the escapades of “Light Bulb Head Dude”, his signature character, as A.J. takes him to new heights – both in scale and size.

 

A.J.‘s work has been exhibited at many galleries in Denver’s Santa Fe Art District. He received an Award of Excellence from the 2013 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, which featured his work Mix-Up in a nationally touring exhibition, and his illustrated world appeared in a short film that was accepted into the 2017 Palm Springs International Animation Festival.

A.J. 

A.J. 

Curator Statement

Playing the long game.

"I have been using that term quite a bit lately for the work we do in the studio.

 

Meaningful art and meaningful life is and has to be sequential. Prior experience, current experience, space, location and physical space all play into the work of creativity. The Mona Lisa, Guernica, Beethoven’s 5th or any masterpiece were not completed in an hour and a half workshop. Finding a creative Voice takes time.

 

Each of these artists came to us more than 10 years ago and we have seen a progression and a maturity in their personalities and in their work. Each still have the disabilities they had when they first arrived, but each also have developed a robust artistic voice and opinions about what they want to accomplish with their time. Ten years is a long time. 

 

Each of these artists are dedicated to their craft. We have enjoyed seeing them mature as people and as artists. We think you will like what you see."

Damon McLeese

Executive Director

©2019 Access Gallery 909 Santa Fe, Denver, CO 80204 | Santa Fe Art District 

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