Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UMAR: Art is the voice of the soul

You are looking at a mixed media piece by an artist I know only as Angelo S. I met him Tuesday afternoon at the annual luncheon to benefit UMAR, an organization that finds homes and jobs and creates other opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

UMAR's arts program never fails to intrigue me, not least because the people in it sometimes have limited use of their hands or reduced motor skills. People paint, draw, take photographs, make jewelry, work with glass or plants. Angelo has made a short film titled "My Smile" and designed furniture. He obviously loves music: He has written abstract pieces and created this collage, which has no title but bears the phrase "Music is the voice of the soul."

Angelo seemed shy, so I asked another staffer about him. She told me he had created another work by putting a canvas on top of a speaker, setting watercolors on the canvas and letting vibrations from the speaker distribute the paint. He literally made music visible.

I doubt I'd have had that notion, but if I had, I'd never have acted on it. For Angelo and other UMAR artists, there's no barrier between idea and execution: His curiosity and imagination stimulate him, and he gets busy.

UMAR has other artists who do more traditional work, of course. Here's a painting by a fellow named Dale, which I also bought. It leaps off the canvas with a kind of Van Gogh wildness:

Events like the Friends of UMAR luncheon inspire us not to judge people too quickly, assuming limitations before we get to know them. But they also remind us that folks who have fewer gifts than average in one area may have more abilities than the typical person in another. I can do a lot of things, but imagining paintings like these isn't one of them.


Randy Leibowitz Dean said...

Lovely article. Thank you Mr. Toppman. And enjoy your purchases.