JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV)- A hidden gem full of original artwork sits in the heart of Jackson.
The masterpieces are created by people in the community with disabilities. The program is called Arts for All, Mississippi.
“It has about 35 student participants who all have varying types and degrees of disabilities and they all participate in art,” director Tom Harmon said.
Artists in the program are dropping the stigmas and showcasing their abilities.
“We teach art, provide instruction, provide an opportunity for them to exhibit and sell their work and for them to enter competitions and several of our artists have won major competitions.”
Mediums which they use encompass everything, including oil on canvas, chalk and pottery.
“We have fantastic artists here,” Harmon added. “Some of our artists have been coming to this program for 12 years and they come every week.”
“When you have a disability, sometimes you feel isolated from social activities. You feel different when you’re out among non-disabled people; [there’s] a lot of overt discrimination.”
“This opportunity affords them a time to be themselves, to interact with other artists that may have a disability, to get peer support and they consider themselves a family. It’s not just an art group- it’s a community art family.”
Artist Levernon showcased his current projects, saying “ I’m working on a picture of Jackson State. Eventually, I’m going to switch to oils one day, but I have to get the courage to do that,” adding that he really loves college bands- the subject of his recent artwork.
Harmon said he hopes the students gain a feeling of accomplishment and pride and that they “feel better about themselves and earn a little money here and there, to be recognized for their work and not treated as a person with a disability, but in fact, encouraged to show their abilities.”
Artists in the program were also invited to illustrate a children’s book.
Proceeds from book sales go toward the art program and also fund Camp Kamassa for children with disabilities.
Proceeds from gallery art sales go back into the Arts for All program.