artAbility Showcase: 10th anniversary preview

artAbility Showcase: 10 year anniversary sneak peek

artAbility Showcase: 10-year anniversary sneak peek

The artAbility Showcase will be held on April 29 at the 1912 Center in Moscow. This annual celebration is always a highlight of the CDHD calendar, but this year is particularly special. This year, we’re marking 10 years of artAbility – a decade of serving the local disability community and providing meaningful, accessible opportunities for artistic expression.

The program has developed a strong band of participants that regularly attend workshops, creating art and visiting with friends. The annual Showcase is not only a chance for them to celebrate each other and their work, but it’s also a time for friends, family and the larger community to share in the experience.

We sat down with Project Coordinator, Alena Ramkissoon to discuss the upcoming Showcase. While attendees can expect the same inclusive art exhibition experience, there are plans in the works to make this milestone year a little special …

Hello, Alena. Thank you for taking to time to chat. I’m excited to be able to talk to you about the upcoming artAbility Showcase, but let’s start off with a little background info. What is artAbility?

Alena: artAbility is a student-led project through the Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development. It provides adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities free and accessible art workshops led by local artists. All these workshops take place in the Palouse area.

And what is the artAbility Showcase?

Alena: This is the cumulation of the hard work from the entire academic year. All the artwork from the workshops is saved and displayed at the Showcase. It’s a time to celebrate the artists and everyone’s hard work.

When is the artAbility Showcase?

Alena: This year is the 10th anniversary, and it will be held on April 29 at the 1912 Center from 5-7pm PT.

Who can attend the artAbility Showcase?

Alena: Anyone can attend. It’s open to the whole community. Anyone in Moscow, students, faculty, community members, family members, artists’ friends. Anyone can attend. It’s open to everyone!

What can visitors expect if they attend the artAbility Showcase?

Alena: They can expect to see a genuine art exhibition. 85 pieces of artwork will be displayed – all created by the self-advocates who participate in artAbility. There will be some light refreshments. This year is a little bit special, so we’ll also be including a few new additions.

There will be a free art raffle and a Tree Ring Printing workshop. There will be artwork and greeting cards for sale. There will also be a Ripple Effects Mapping activity supervised by Dr Luvaas and Lori Higgins where we will be looking at the impacts of artAbility over the last 10 years.

You mentioned that there will be 85 pieces of art on display. Is that right?

Alena: Yes.

And attendees can again purchase art this year? If so, how?

Alena: Yes, select pieces will be available for purchase with all proceeds going directly back to the artist who created the work.

There will be marked sale tables at the Showcase – one for artwork and one for greeting cards. Both can be purchased with cash or check.

So, if I would like to purchase a piece of art, do I note the name of the piece and come to the table to buy it?

Alena: You would go to the table. There will be a sign with photos of all the available pieces for sale. You would show staff which piece you would like to buy, pay for it and you will receive a receipt.

All the artwork stays at the Showcase for the night. The next day or later in the week, you can come by the CDHD office building to pick up the artwork you purchased.  

As you touched on, this is the 10-year anniversary of artAbility. How does it feel to be at the helm of the project for this milestone?

Alena: It feels like a really big honor. I’ve always loved artAbility. I’ve been assisting on the Project for three years now. It’s so incredible to see how it’s grown and developed over the past 10 years.

[Being the Project Coordinator] I get to see it from the inside. I get to see the impact that it has on people – participants and students – over the past 10 years.

Ah, I didn’t realize you have been helping for three years! Did you pick artAbility, or were you approached by Olivia to take on the Project?

Alena: I didn’t originally start at the CDHD working on this project, but after seeing it for a year, I was really interested in it. I really wanted to be a part of it, so I talked with Olivia and I shadowed the Coordinator last year. Then I was able to take over the Project this year. So, it was an interest that I had that she helped me follow through on.

Nice! And what drew you to it?

Alena: I really liked the hands-on experience. I like being directly involved with the community and I love the workshops and getting to interact and socialize with all the self-advocates.

Personally, I also really enjoyed the organization and planning aspects of it. As Olivia always says, it feels like doing a practice run for planning my wedding [laughs]. I really liked planning everything.

Speaking of planning, what are the plans to make this year’s Showcase a little bit different to honor the 10-year anniversary?

Alena: This year, I wanted to provide more for the attendees – provide the opportunity to view the art as well as create their own artwork! And experience a little bit of what the artists get to experience.

Another big thing is the Ripple Effect Mapping. It will show all the impacts from the whole 10 years from the perspective of all the participants, community members and students who were involved. Everyone is welcome to share any way that artAbility has impacted them. Even if it’s as simple as seeing the fun photos on Facebook, or more involved like taking part in a Disability Etiquette Training to learn about the Project and student opportunities.

You also mentioned the Tree Ring Printing workshop. That was a workshop that was done this year for the artists?

Alena: Yes. That was the first workshop that we had this year. It was led by Nick Koenig who is a PhD student at the University of Idaho.

We are having a miniature version of that workshop where attendees can take cured, fired tree rounds and use brayers (or rollers) to put ink on those tree rounds. They will then press them onto paper to create a print of those unique tree rings.

That sounds like a lot of fun!  You also mentioned a raffle. What kinds of prizes will be given out in the raffle?

Alena: Yeah! We will get a print done of a piece of art from one of the initial workshops from the very first year of artAbility. It’s not an original. It will be a print of a watercolor and alcohol ink painting by Toby Schultz.

He’s generously allowing us to get a print made of this artwork. It’s gorgeous! I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces from all 10 years of artAbility. I love the colors!

How can attendees participate in the raffle?

Alena: When people attend the Showcase, they need to stop by the registration table to pick up their ticket to enter the raffle. It’s completely free. Everyone who stops by the registration table will get one.

The raffle will be held at a set time. We will draw a ticket and the ticket holder must be present to claim the painting. If they are not present, we will draw another ticket.

Oh, it sounds like it’s going to be an exciting addition to the Showcase. You also touched on ripple effects mapping, or the collaborative storytelling activity before. Can you give me a little more information on what people can expect from that?

Alena: Of course! It will be an interactive event going on for the entire night. We will have a long sheet of paper on the wall with designated scribes taking down information. Anyone is welcome to come up to talk to a scribe – just tell their story about how artAbility has impacted their life. Everything will go up on the board.

The purpose it is to show connections and how artAbility has impacted the community through personal, first-person stories. It’s going to be very visual with different colors to highlight different experiences and perspectives.

With all of this happening, what are you looking forward to the most about this year’s Showcase?

Alena: Sharing all the artwork with everyone. Seeing everyone. Having everyone from the community come and see everything [laughs]. I’m just so excited to see everyone!

What has been the biggest surprise for you in coordinating artAbility/the Showcase?

Alena: So many things! There’s a lot of admin work [laughs]!

I was also surprised by how much support I received. From both CDHD staff members and trainees. Everyone has been so willing to jump in and help.

Good! What has been your favorite part about leading artAbility this year?

Alena: I loved putting all the workshops together and seeing it all fall into place. And I loved actually being at the workshops and seeing all the participants – seeing them enjoying the workshops and enjoying the mediums. I like having good interactions with the artists. It’s also nice to see that hard work pay off, seeing people enjoying themselves.

For sure – it sounds very rewarding. And how did you decide what mediums to cover in the workshops?

Alena: Last year, when I was shadowing, I would attend SAM meetings. I would ask the self-advocates what mediums do they like? What they have done in the past that they like? I got a bunch of ideas through them. One of the big things that they said they wanted to do again was clay, so I made sure to make that work this year.

That’s a really great idea. You get to host workshops that you know participants will enjoy and it gives them the opportunity to help in shaping what the workshops cover.

Alena: Yeah!

What has been your favorite part about planning the Showcase?

Alena: I really liked creating all the media and marketing stuff – I liked making the save the date cards and the poster. The artwork we used was very meaningful to me. I chose artwork that represents each past coordinator and each of those art pieces was featured on that year’s poster. So, there’s meaning to the artwork that we used.

Yeah, it’s like a little nod to previous years for the 10-year anniversary! How did your role as the Project Coordinator enrich your time at the CDHD/University of Idaho?

Alena: Having this role has really impacted my life. I have grown tremendously as a person. I have more confidence in my job and my abilities. I have been able to take on more of a leadership position.

I have learned to work with other staff members and reach out to people that normally I wouldn’t have. I have gotten to learn from them and understand that they’re all resources that care about my project and my success.

Thank you again, Alena, for taking the time to chat. To finish things off, what would you tell someone who knows nothing about artAbility to get them to come to the Showcase?

Alena: It’s a free community event. It’s so beautiful. You’ll get to meet new people. You’ll get to see all the personal … art is so expressive and personal. People are sharing that. It’s a great opportunity to experience that. And it’s free!