School of Art opens new downtown gallery

Ally Eighmey

Exhibit features disabled artists

Phyliss Steiner, director of Creative Arts and Media Productions at Hattie Larlam’s Creative Arts exhibit, talks with guests at the Downtown Gallery Thursday night. Rachel Kilroy | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The School of Art Galleries unveiled an exhibit at its downtown gallery on Main Street. The exhibit is a part of Hattie Larlham’s Creative Arts program for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Phyllis Steiner, director of Creative Arts and media productions at Hattie Larlham, said “(The) program gives profoundly disabled artists a hand and a voice, letting them create art without the focus of their limitations.”

The Creative Arts program, based in Mantua, enables artists to use several mediums to express themselves including acrylic and watercolor paintings, pottery, sculptures and photography. In the past, artists have even worked with poetry and music.

“We see the people we work with as artists, refusing to define them by their disabilities, but rather, letting them define themselves by what they can achieve,” Steiner said.

More than 70 children and adults create their masterpieces with the help of professional artists called trackers. The trackers work one-on-one with each of the Hattie artists to develop the pieces. Creative Arts prides itself on the fact that the art is created through another artist, not by another artist.

“(Trackers) work with different tools and charts, asking question after question, until they understand what the artist wants done on their painting,” Steiner said.

The School of Art’s Downtown Gallery, located at 141 E. Main St., features work done by the trackers, while the Eels Art Gallery at the Blossom Music Center features work done by Hattie artists themselves. Artwork at both exhibits is for sale and will be on display for the rest of the month. All proceeds made at the Eels Art Gallery will go back to the artists themselves in specialized trusts developed for Hattie Larlham.

Anderson Turner, the director of galleries for the School of Art, first proposed the exhibits to the university. He first heard about the program through one of the art trackers, and after visiting Hattie Larlham’s art studio and meeting a few of the kids, Turner turned his idea into a reality. Turner has also agreed to serve on the Creative Arts advisory board for Hattie Larlham.

“The partnership with Kent State University has been amazing, as it always is,” said Steiner .

Contact entertainment reporter Ally Eighmey at [email protected]