There is something about patience and allowing the path to unfold before me that has usually eluded me. I tend to push, prod and force myself in directions that become uncomfortable and later untenable. And then there are days like Saturday.
We went to the Art in the Mill Park in Paoli (http://artinthemillpark.com) and after looking at all the all art, crafts and welded garden dinosaurs, Julia settled herself down at the kids art area and started work on a miniature foil and tape dinosaur that evolved from t-Rex to something aquatic with a dress. I got bored watching her careful work and with all her attention on the blue Dino, I wandered over to a nearby booth maned by the parents of a young man with developmental disabilities. His work–colorful, joyous, very optimistic– was selling like . .. Well, doing better than most anything else there. I engaged his father, Tom, in conversation, careful at first. Probably too cautiously but Tom was willing to talk, telling me his son’s story until I find the confidence to ask how they managed this–the booth, the post cards and tee shirts, prints, posters and framed originals. How did they start? Short answer: taking a huge risk and investing in what their kid loves doing. He told me about business plans, transition, working in art, investment, 501(c)3’s, and how his son loves theatre and uses the money he makes to bring her friends to shows at the Overture Center. Alex’s mom joined the conversation and she told me more, emphasizing connections, community and how to figure out an artist’s market. They told me their son has three jobs, does art, has enrolled in a college program and has his first big commission.
The blue dinosaur grew. And a dress was designed.
There is an art community for people with disabilities. There is some sort of worn path here. Does it exist elsewhere? Their son, Alex, is very social, awkward, untypical but easy to connect with. He is like his art. And people are buying his work. And it’s not about the selling but the connections.
Tom brought me to another booth and introduces me to Alex who is executive director of Artworking. From their website:
ARTworking provides professionally oriented art mentorship and training for adult artists with cognitive disabilities. We serve artists in our own studio workspace as well as community and private settings. We pride ourselves on providing specialized support to talented individuals with unique abilities in a laid-back and fun environment…. ARTworking is part of Work Opportunity in Rural Communities (WORC), a non-profit organization that has been providing community based vocational support to adults with developmental disabilities since it was founded in 1983. (ARTworking.org)
They provide a work place, a studio, business training to adults who have moved from high school into the post-academic world that can be tough to navigate for young people with disabilities. Julia is way too young to participate in anything that they run but Alex invited us to visit, watch artists and pick his brain.
The day glowed. The setting for the art fair was bucolic– a small park in a tiny town set in gentle hills and corn fields. It was busy but there was grass between the booths and underfoot. There was coffee and fresh baked goods from a local organization and the food trucks were few and low key. The arts and crafts for sale were not as kitchy as that at bigger fairs and the event was small enough that there were no repeats. There were a few near by antique shops to wander through. It was quiet enough for me to wander to a nearby booth while Julia worked on her dinosaur and for the booth owners to engage me in conversation for a long time. There was a synchronicity about the experience that left me feeling supported. Led. Like whispers to the soul to work but not worry. That however we arrived in that place, we would arrive at the next and the next place we need to be.