I did two things this past weekend that awakened me to a new awareness around what I believed to be true but was in fact so much more. One was an art opening at the Jamestown Arts Center. It was an exhibition featuring artists from a few Rhode Island disability service organizations. I knew the art had been created by mentally challenged individuals but I had no idea how blown away I was going to be at the amazing work I saw the minute I walked in the room. The art was raw, from the heart and really beautiful; and why shouldn't it be? "Of course the art could be good Kim," I said to myself. "Art comes from the heart and all of these artists are full of heart." I quickly realized this by talking to some of them about their pieces. I don't think I had ever really thought about it before but now I was realizing that these beautiful artists had as much to say about their world as any non mentally challenged artist. Duh? I guess what I am trying to say is that my eyes were opened to the fact that I just hadn't thought about it before. I believed I knew who mentally challenged people were as a group. They are not a "group", they are individuals just like I am. I was disconnected from knowing anyone from Looking Upwards, for example (which is located on my street), beyond seeing them walking up and down the street once and a while with one of the staff members. I felt the desire to stop and talk with them more after seeing their art. It's not like I avoided talking with them, I just hadn't made the effort before. As an artist we had a lot in common and after seeing that show I realized we had more than just that in common. We were human beings with opinions, views on the world and a way to beautifully show it to others through our work.
The second thing I did was go to the Women's March in Providence, RI. I hesitated going because large crowds can sometimes overwhelm me but I decided to bring my camera so I would concentrate on that verses being in the big crowds. What blew me away however, was that the crowd was so peaceful and thoughtful towards one another that I was not overwhelmed at all. When I hear the word protest I think of angry mobs but this was certainly not that. The women, men and children there were protesting their basic rights as human beings being taken away, with signs, speeches, standing in unity and with grace. I did not see or feel the need for any police control and enjoyed meeting new people as I photographed.
I am always glad to have my mind blown wide open with new awareness. I was reminded at the art show about how important it is talk with others who are "different" than I am whether it is because they think differently than I do or they look differently than I do. I was reminded not to make assumptions and remember to explore and get curious like I had done by going to this art opening. I learned from one of the artists that he has a studio in Pawtucket and that I am welcome there any time and I learned that two of the male artists swim at the Y with my husband sometimes and now he can say Hi to them by name. And mostly I leaned that being mentally challenged does not mean you can't make incredible art work. At the Women's March I felt that because the intention was set on the Women's March website to keep the marches peaceful that everyone did just that. Maybe we need to have a website that sets that intention for our everyday living. It certainly is my intention every day but man was it nice to see so many people from all walks of life, from so many races, religions and sexual orientations accepting one another as human beings; just as human loving beings. So it was a great weekend. I was aware of some beauty in the world for sure, through art and through peaceful self expression at the Women's March.
Get to know someone who is different than you. See what could be possible in learning about who they are and how they feel, express and live. You just might have your mind blown wide open around what you believed to be true and what is actually true.