Through July, Grace Ridge Brewing shows “Art From the Heart,” a show increasing awareness for Disability Pride Month. Pat Case, a long-time Homer resident and artist who is 90% blind, collaborated with Homer’s Independent Living Center (ILC) to put on the show. “Art From the Heart” showcases and sells art either created by those who experience, or who illuminate the themes of, life with disabilities.
In addition, the “Walk and Roll Pledge Fundraiser” happens at the SPARC building July 18-23. Plus, there is the grand event, “Art from the Heart FUNdraiser,” which will be celebrated at 4 p.m., July 21 at Land’s End Resort. It will include not only an art auction from a large and diverse collection, but also music from English John, speakers such as Pat McBride, and snacks.
These activities are art of the ILC’s project to increase community awareness about Disability Pride. Joyanna Geisler, executive director of Homer’s ILC, spoke about the aims of Disability Pride month. Geisler said that “disability is part of the human condition” and “the biggest barrier for people with disabilities is society’s attitudes.” Further, she described that while there are folks who are “loud and proud” of their disabilities, there are many who “are depressed, ashamed, isolated.” The purpose of Disability Pride month is to help eliminate this cultural shaming and exclusivity, upholding an “acceptance of everybody in the community,” she said.
This movement is historically linked to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which President George H.W. Bush signed on July 26, 1990, to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. A Disability Pride event was held in that same year in Boston, which spurred the establishment of July as Disability Pride month nationwide.
Rather than ostracize these members of our community, the movement aims at uplifting their unparalleled gifts, which are being shared all month at the art showing.
The intention to uplift also can be seen in the local events, programs and advocacy grounded in Homer’s Independent Living Center throughout the year. Geisler said the work done by this organization ranges from counseling for caregivers, accessible transportation advocacy, and supplementing assistive technology, to community-building recreational events that are part of the center’s “TRAILS” program.
For Case, the ILC helped him get financial support which covered multiple costly eye surgeries; he described the ILC’s support as being “like a miracle,” during this time. Since then, Case continues to benefit from the efforts of ILC, saying the organization, “shines in [his] heart,” as it “opens up regular everyday living to [him].”
Case helped arrange the art showcase. The show features paintings, surrealist portraits, and wooden, resin-filled charcuterie boards, among other creations. Michelle Melchert, who experiences disability herself, created the charcuterie boards. Case described her as “way more than her disability,” just like all the artists showcased in this exhibition.
James Welch, another featured artist who has multiple sclerosis, creates pen and ink drawings which are “a way to ground, explore, and comment on life using colors, lines, words, wit, and wisdom,” according to his artist bio on the ILC website.
Proceeds from art on sale at the show goes to Homer’s ILC, which relies on community support to fuel their efforts. Case, alongside providing a painting which Geisler described as “beautiful,” was pivotal in organizing additional fundraising events this Disability Pride month.
Case voiced his belief in the power of people with disabilities, discounting the idea that people with disabilities are “less than they used to be,” and instead could be “more than they used to be.” In order for others to compassionately understand this, it is revelatory to “learn their stories.” The art showcase and integrative communal events are a couple possible ways to learn.
“If we know more about who each individual is that’s walking through life with us, then we surely can help each other better,” Case said.
More information on Homer’s Independent Living Center, and the events taking place this Disability Pride month, can be found at http://www.peninsulailc.org/.