IOWA CITY — The walls of Angel Ross’s Iowa City apartment are covered with original art. A stack of finished canvases sit in one corner, and an easel in the living room holds a work in progress, a face peering out from the middle of a bright mandala.
For Ross, who has schizophrenia, painting is a form of therapy. But it is also her passion.
“I love just meditating, thinking of different things to paint. I’ve got a creative mind,” she said. “Art is part of me.”
She’ll get to show off her creations at an art show next Saturday (10/15) at the Iowa City Eastside Recycling Center’s Environmental Education Center, 2401 Scott Blvd. SE. The show will feature about a dozen artists from the Iowa Disability Creative Works Gallery, an arm of the Disability Enterprise Foundation.
University of Iowa professor emeritus in social work Tom Walz started the foundation to help people with disabilities and retired elderly start up and sustain micro-enterprises. The Creative Works Gallery grew from the foundation as a way to showcase artists with disabilities. In July 2015, the group launched an online gallery at www.idcwg.org featuring local artists.
“Some of our artists have disabilities that create barriers to sharing their art with the community, but art is a big part of their lives,” Creative Works Gallery curator Maggie Burns said. “I think they never expected to have their art recognized in any public way.”
Creative Works has held one physical exhibition at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City and has displayed work at flea sales and at the Iowa State Fair. Organizers felt it was time to take the next step with a formal art show.
“We just wanted to give public recognition to the artists,” Walz said.
Ross beamed when asked how she felt about being part of the show.
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“I’m excited. I’m going to be standing there, looking great. If my art gets sold, I’ll be really excited,” she said. “It’s something that is a dream come true. I want to be a professional artist, and I’m working at it.”
About 25 artists, most from the Iowa City area, have art on the Creative Works Gallery site. Organizers would like to expand their reach to artists beyond Johnson County, and are looking for a volunteer to help with outreach to disability service providers around the state. Part of the art show will be broadcast on Iowa City’s public access channel, which is creating a video for a fundraising drive the organization is planning. Walz estimates it costs about $6,000 a year to run the gallery, and he would like to raise $40,000 to ensure several years of stable funding.
The organization is also collecting art supplies for a supply bank to help low income members get canvas, paint and other supplies and are looking for a volunteer to run the supply bank.
Art supply donations have been a boon for Creative Works Gallery member Tina Scalf, who in the past has scrounged for supplies in dumpsters — she has good luck at the end of the UI semester when students are leaving.
She made art as a child, but stopped during a period of child abuse. It wasn’t until she was almost 50 that she rediscovered her passion for painting.
“It’s been a 3 1/2 year journey of healing and coming to grips with my life,” she said. “I was able to connect with that childhood part of me that was lost. From that tragedy came the ability to do art. I realized this was my purpose in life.”
She sees her purpose as not just sharing stories through her own paintings but in helping others realize their potential. She carries Creative Works Gallery brochures with her so she can hand them out to people she meets. She makes a point to stop and talk with the homeless — she used to be homeless herself and said most of the public doesn’t see what they’re capable of.
“You tap into their ability to do art, and you’ll find a very different sort of person,” she said. “People with disabilities don’t get that outlet, because people don’t know how to approach them.”
If you go
— What: Iowa Disability Creative Works Gallery Art Show
— When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 15
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— Where: Iowa City Eastside Recycling Center, Environmental Education Center, 2401 Scott Blvd. SE, Iowa City
— Information: idcwg.org
Those interested in being part of the Creative Works Gallery — having a profile on the site, buying art, volunteering or donating — can email email@example.com, write to Disability Enterprise Foundation, One Westgate Circle, Iowa City, IA 52246 or call Maggie Burns at (319) 621-4401 or Tom Walz at (319) 530-8765.