A Roll In The Park ADA Celebration with arts exhibit

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I had a lovely conversation with three people who helped organize a great local event happening this Friday! The event has been going on for a while, and this is only the second year they have had an arts exhibit. All of the art is made by folks with disabilities. So you can see why I had to jump on the bus to go down and meet with some of the co-organizers to find out more! Please meet Patricia Kepler, Sarah Gerth and Lavaun Heaster. First, here are the details of the event.

A Roll In The Park: ADA Celebration and Street Fair

Presented by Independent Living Resources

Arts & Crafts, Education Booths, Food Samples and Fun!

September 27, 2013   11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Independent Living Resources at 1839 NE Couch Street in Portland, OR

Independent Living Resources traces its roots to 1957, for more than 55 years People with Disabilities have been serving People with Disabilities in the Portland Area! Your tax-deductible donations help fund ILR’s programs, promote independence and advocacy for all people with disabilities, and raise awareness about disability issues.

Bring some spending money to the fair!

Here is some of the incredible art you will find on display (and some for sale) this Friday, the 27th.

An intricate three-dimensional wood carving showing a representation of a city scape. The wood is blonde, and tops of buildings are black.

Two beaded necklaces, a bracelet, and a set of earrings all handmade. Some colors are earth tones, and some are bright and vibrant. Pendants are foreign coins.

A woman in black stands next to a metal stand displaying framed artwork. Artwork is multicultural, multi-ethnic visual arts created with many colors of cut paper.

A pair of bright, colorful hand knitted socks on display. Also, a pale pink knitted sock with a dark pink border is displayed on a prosthetic foot.

An earth toned painting of a dark-skinned woman with glasses and long hair holding a gas mask in front of her. She looks solemn. Four small soft sculptures of white knitted yarn that are somewhat human shaped. They are covered in surgical stitches and each have one button eye hanging off. A burgandy glazed ceramic sculpture with a dream catcher and feathers.

And here is the chat I had with some of the co-organizers.

Patricia: My name’s Patricia Kepler. I’m an Independent Living Specialist and the Recreation Coordinator here at Independent Living Resources.

Sarah: My name’s Sarah Gerth. I’m an Independent Living Specialist, and I also coordinate the brain injury support group.

Lavaun: Lavaun Heaster. I do paper cutting.

Sarah: The event is called A Roll In The Park. It’s a celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Awareness Month. It’s going to be a big block party with music groups, an art exhibit, a dance troupe, agencies from all over Portland that serve people with disabilities. We’re just gonna have a big party.

Patricia: There’s maybe 20 booths from different organizations. Our theme this year is Recreation and Inclusion. We have agencies such as SCRAP, Off The Couch, they’re bringing a miniature horse, we have some puppy raisers for Guide Dogs for the Blind bringing some puppies. There’ll be musical entertainment, door prizes. Many local restaurants have donated food. So we’ll be giving out food samples from our local restaurants to keep people fed since it takes place from 11:00 to 3:00. So it’s over the lunch time, so there’ll be samples around for people to nibble on as they enjoy the booths. And most of our exhibits, will be having some kind of an activity to familiarize people with the different organizations. It’s open to everybody. ILR provides service to people with disabilities, but it’s not only an opportunity for people with disabilities to learn more about what’s out there available to them as far as resources, but also an opportunity to educate the general public about the abilities of people with disabilities. That piece is for our art exhibit this year.

Sarah: I think 11 people will be exhibiting their original artwork. Some people will even be selling their artwork as well. It ranges from jewelry to wood carving to paintings to drawings, all different types of art is going to be available in the show.

Patricia: And our artists are also, just like everything else in the organization, cross-disability.

Sarah: There’s a wide variety of different disabilities are being represented. And the artwork is really phenomenal. We wanted to showcase people with disabilities’ talent. And we thought it would be a cultural thing that would be quite valuable to the people coming in to the Roll In The Park. We’re having a lot of cultural things at Roll In The Park.

Lavaun: Having limited vision, I would lift up my pen, pencil, paint brush, and oftentimes put it down in the wrong spot. And so I was making calendars, and I tried cutting some paper to fill up some space. And it kinda grew. Now I do all kinds of themes really about being invisible. It’s being multicultural, multi-ethnic, because I have Chicano blood in me and Irish blood in me, and my skin is white. So feeling like I’m not recognized there. As a person with a disability, oftentimes I don’t use my sensing cane. So I’m not recognized there. So I put people in with some sensing canes. I put multi-tonal families in. I create stories by cutting paper.

Patricia: The carvings that we have were done by a blind artist, and his pieces are amazing. And you can feel all of the details. They’re just gorgeous. At the Commission for the Blind they have a wood-carving class. And the reason why they offer that is for people who are newly blind that when they first lose their vision, they’re thinking that they’re never gonna be able to do anything again. And they’re putting sharp tools in their hands and saying “Ok, cut this piece of wood.” And they’re making just magnificent pieces. And this particular individual was a graduate of that program, and he discovered he had just an amazing talent.

Sarah: One person is gonna do a demonstration, actually do carving at the art exhibit.

Patricia: It’s a big gathering of everybody, able-bodied and non-able-bodied, to celebrate community, the togetherness of Portland and the fact that we all share this beautiful community.

Lavaun: As an artist myself with a disability, there is no central point in Portland. There’s the Disability Art and Culture Project, but there really is no central point to foster artists becoming professionals. There’s Project Grow for the developmental disability, but for the cross-disability community, there is not a place to learn from other artists unless you find your way into mainstream art, which is really hard to do. I see this as an opportunity to help artists learn from each other and learn how to build a business as an artist. Having the opportunity for artists to sell their art at this event is a way that they can learn from each other. Because I’ve learned from people I’ve met along the way.

Sarah: I think having the art exhibit could empower other people with disabilities to take it upon themselves to try art that they’ve never tried before. They can see others doing it, either with similar or different disabilities, and realize hey, maybe I can do that myself.

Patricia: Independent Living Resources is commonly known as Portland’s biggest secret. The art showcase is actually an excellent way for ILR to demonstrate in one small way what our mission is and what we do. Independent Living Centers are consumer-driven organizations, which means that we provide four primary services: skills training, peer counseling, advocacy, information and referral services to people of all disabilities. 50% of our Board must have a disability, and 50% of our staff must have a disability. So the idea is people with disabilities mentoring people with disabilities rather than the agency medical model. All of our events, our organizations, our meetings as we’ve been planning this event have included our consumers with disabilities. They direct us in what they want and how they need to be served. So getting that word out to people in the community that are looking for that kind of place, that support. They are always welcome to come here and help direct ILR in the future.

Lavaun: Having looked into small businesses and using different vocational services in the city for people with disabilities, I learned that people with disabilities tend to make a little bit more money when they own their own business. It is a huge risk, but I think when it comes to empowerment, empowering people with different options for how they can make employment work for them, whether it’s self-employment or going out to a more traditional job, learning maybe graphic arts. Because there are artists that have disabilities who manage to find jobs out there. But also, empowering people to try something different, to try and make a living wage. And art is hard. There’s a lot of artists in Portland. But there are artists who are making it, and so to me it’s really important that we have a central place that is cross-disability. And that’s one of the things that ILR offers, is it’s cross disability.