The Discounted Artist

“What beauty have we missed by shunning people with disabilities?”

I had an astounding conversation the other day with the dean of the Arts College at Kennesaw State University. We were exploring  the link between the arts and people with disabilities.  Quite often, music can soothe the spirit when ordinary words fail.  A person with speech and movement challenges can get on a stage and transform themselves into visions of strength and power.

Judith Scott, an amazing adult artist with downs syndrome, is an example of this. When Judith was born, baby boomers with disabilities were still being warehoused in  institutions. Even 25 years ago, an Illinois neurologist suggested we place our son with cerebral palsy in such a facility.

Joyce and her twin sister Judith Scott 

Joyce and her twin sister Judith Scott 

When Judith was seven, her parents were urged to leave her at a "home" for children with disabilities and the discarded.   But finally after 35 years, Judith’s twin sister rescued her.  Judith began a transformation once she started becoming mainstreamed into her home community. Judith’s talent began to soar. Today, she is considered to be gifted artist, with her sculptures on display at the Brooklyn Museum. Celebrities rave about her art and collect it.

This story just reinforces the importance of integrating people with disabilities into our lives.    If we don’t, we all lose.

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