Artists with disabilities join the First Friday scene


Photos by Mike Sinclair.

One artist has Attention Deficit Disorder so intense that he can’t concentrate long on one piece – so he works on many at once.

Another in a wheelchair designs elaborate beaded jewelry that her mother puts together.

They were among those participating in the third annual show featuring art by people with disabilities Friday at the Jones Gallery in the Crossroads Art District.

Its organizer was the Whole Person, a Midtown group that recently relocated to a renovated historic building at 3710 Main St.

“We’re trying to integrate artists with disabilities into First Friday,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, development manager for the advocacy group.

She also said the event “is an opportunity to involve the community in what we’re doing.” UMB Bank sponsored the wine for the event.

In the gallery, Andrew Rosenbarger of Overland Park stood by his abstract art – complex pieces with heavy layering that can involve oil and latex paints, acrylics and more.

He works on up to two dozen of them at a time, darting from one to another, he said.

Because of his ADD, he said, “I can’t pay attention to anything for a long time.”

Lesley Johnston of Oak Grove was in a wheelchair by a display of her beaded jewelry.

The stoke 13 years ago took her mobility, she said, but “if anything good has come from the stroke it would be my creativity.”

Her mother, Donna Rieman, was there with her and assembles  the elaborate jewelry that her daughter designs.

Gene Smith of Gladstone was born with cerebral palsy but has been creating art since high school in 1995. Besides his paintings and reverse image transfers hanging on a wall, he had a portfolio with pictures of many of his works and a short written history of his life.

As a child, he traveled to 48 states with his mother and absorbed the colors and drama of the experience. Some say his colorful oil paintings remind them of Claude Monet’s work.

Smith’s written comment about his art states: “I may not always draw a straight line but then again, there are no straight lines in nature.”

Nancy Thane, a photographer from Gardner, Kan., uses a kind of walker but does not let that keep her from elaborate nature photography. She sat by her display, which included photos of ornate flowers and of a barn owl.

Her father was a photographer and she has used cameras all her life, she said.

“All of my family were exposed to photography at an early age,” she said, which naturally enough led to a pun on the photographic F stop.

“The F stopped here,” she said.

Image Gallery: Meet the artists. Click on the photo below to see full-sized portraits of the artists. Photos by Mike Sinclair.

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