The Rapidian

ACT hosts the eighth annual ACTion Art exhibit

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ACTion Art delivers a unique opportunity for the Grand Rapids art community. Learn more about the impactful exhibit below.
2016 Jurors Jenn Schaub, Christopher Bruce, and Brian Alexander

2016 Jurors Jenn Schaub, Christopher Bruce, and Brian Alexander

About ACTion Art

ACTion Art is an art exhibit for adult artists with disabilities to share their work with the community and other artists. 2017 is the eighth annual ACTion Art exhibit, hosted by Artists Creating Together. ACT hosts ACTion Art as a uniquely designed opportunity to empower adult artists with disabilities to show their art in a professional gallery format, and to market and sell their work in the larger community. Each year, over 50 adult artists with disabilities are showcased in the exhibit.

2016 Juror's Choice Winners Wes DeVries, Tyler Vonitter, and Jodie Dilno

2016 Juror's Choice Winners Wes DeVries, Tyler Vonitter, and Jodie Dilno

Students Participating in ACTion Art Education Days

Students Participating in ACTion Art Education Days

An art show is among the most powerful experiences for any artist; they are given the opportunity to share their art with the world.

The ACTion Art Exhibit is no different. Every spring, artists with disabilities gather to showcase their work, revealing a bit of themselves in the process. This year’s event, which takes place from March 28-30 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, will be the eighth annual exhibit; through the exhibit, ACT creates a space for the public to appreciate the creativity and dedication of represented artists, while also empowering artists with disabilities. It’s an exciting experience, especially because it can take confidence to share one's artwork with the public.   

One of the artists at last year’s show was Breanne Kelderhouse. In the wake of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis eight years ago, Breanne found painting to be the perfect distraction from her daily pain and discomfort. “When I have a paintbrush in my hand,” she states, “I feel that I have endless opportunities to create in a world free from pain and all life's worries.” Breanne’s philosophy is to wake up each morning with a smile and capture each day’s emotions with paint.

Each year’s exhibit features over 50 adult artists with disabilities, creating a community of art -- an aspect that Breanne, the People’s Choice winner from last year’s show, really appreciates. “My favorite part of the ACTion Art Exhibit is not only being able to see all the different mediums of extraordinary art, but being able to interact with these amazing artists. I remember falling in love with a particular painting last year and then I found out the artist was a quadriplegic. I was already in love with this painting and then was doubly impressed by the skills of this artist.”

Wes DeVries, who was a Juror’s Choice winner in 2016, says he finds the exhibit inspiring. “When I saw some of what these people do,” he says, “you wouldn’t imagine. One artist, he’s in a wheelchair, so he works with his mouth, and his paintings are incredible. That blows my mind.” Wes has a condition called spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative disease that limits muscle movement. He uses creative tools, such as credit cards, to give himself more artistic control; he likes focusing on shapes and movement in his artwork. “I am looking for pictures with movement,” he explains. “I see movement almost immediately and draw it on the canvas, then begin to throw the paint on.” The cards he uses to paint have even become art themselves -- pieces that Wes calls “Happenings.”

For Wes, seeing individuals find ways to creatively express themselves gives him hope in the face of the unknown his condition brings. “As I lose my arms eventually – and it’s happening faster every year – you never know, I might be doing that kind of unique art someday.”

Each year, jurors choose three winners from the entrants; in addition to a cash prize, they have the opportunity to represent ACT at ArtPrize. One of last year’s Juror’s Choice winners, Tyler Vonitter, remembers the event positively. “I was very surprised when I heard my name,” he says, recalling the moment when he first realized he’d been chosen by the jurors. “Being in ArtPrize was like hitting the jackpot.” Tyler is also an ACT apprentice; he is part of a cohort of transition-aged students who have been attending intensive arts classes at the ACT Studio since October.

For Breanne, sharing her art publicly is a memorable experience. “My favorite part of showing my work to others is hearing about what they see and how the piece makes them feel. I don't like to share what my interpretation of the piece is because I don't want to influence the viewer from developing their own thoughts or feelings towards it. Art evokes different emotions in all of us and I love seeing what my work brings out in others.”
In Wes’ eyes, the exhibit gives him an opportunity to contribute to the community of artists.

"I want to give back. I think of how ACT opened their arms to me, and it made all the difference."

The 2017 ACTion Art Exhibit runs from Tuesday, March 28 to Thursday, March 30 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum Education Center. The free event takes place from 10am to 5pm each day. For more information, visit the event on Facebook.

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