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Exploration into living with a disability sparked by art exhibit

Being struck at 27 years old by a Lincoln Town Car forever changed the course of one artist’s life. The accident pushed the artist from the category of graduate student into the category of disabled when the car smashed into her legs, altering her mobility and lifestyle.

The woman hit by a car has always been an artist, and while her disability may have changed her artistic point of view, her disability did nothing to hamper her creative output. This artist, Gywnneth VanLaven, is one of 40 artists on display at an exhibit in Chicago featuring works from artist with various disabilities.

VanLaven takes the approach of highlighting wellness above disabilities. When so many focus on the physical manifestation of her disability, she explores what wellness looks like -- particularly what wellness looks like for individuals living with a disability.

The aim of the exhibit, called “Human Being II,” is to facilitate a discussion about what it means to live with a disability. The curator of the exhibit says that the showcased works are not therapeutic productions; they are pieces of art from artists of professional practice.

The curator says, “This show is taking on impairment and disability. And with ‘impairment,’ I mean what’s actually going on with the body. ‘Disability’ is more a term of the social meaning around it and they don’t quiet mean the same thing.”

Unfortunately, residents across Maryland can work to accommodate similar fates when an injury renders the individual disabled. Whether an individual lives with a disability that is mental, cognitive or physical, and whether that disability results from an accident or a condition, that disability does not need to be what defines the individual.

While the individual may be unable to work, or may need to find creative solutions for living an independent life, that individual is so much more than disabled.

Source: Medill Reports Chicago, “Living with disability on display in rare art exhibit,” Lindsey Peterson, May 21, 2013

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