Thursday, February 15, 2007

Good-Bye Outsiders and Others Gallery

Four years ago this month, the Spectrum ArtWorks program was in its infancy. We were excited about receiving some funding from United Way for an online art gallery; we were pleased as punch to show the artwork of our members in a couple local art shows for artists with disabilities. It was then that I received a call from a man named Yuri Arajs, he and his business partner Beth Parkhill had just opened a gallery down the street from us called “Outsiders and Others Gallery”. One of their very first shows was to be a show featuring artists living with a mental illness and did we have any work that we might want to submit for that show.

I will never forget that first opening; the walls were white and the lighting impeccable. The artists were artists and not poster people for disability. One of the artists in that first show had always identified himself as “a schizophrenic”, as in “Hi, my name is Bob and I’m a schizophrenic.” That night I heard him as he was introduced to an admirer of his work and he said, “Hi, my name is Bob and I’m an artist.”

In the past four years Outsiders and Others Gallery has exhibited the works of close to 20 Spectrum ArtWorks Artists with the majority of those artists displaying their work in shows that have had nothing to do with disability or mental illness. The Spectrum ArtWorks program has benefited by our association with Outsiders and Others Gallery tremendously; to have had such a well respected gallery with an amazing array of talented staff and volunteers care about our program and our members has kept us strong and proud and motivated.

Because of the welcoming and accessible atmosphere created by Outsiders and Others Gallery, hundreds of people were able to go to an art gallery and enjoy and learn to appreciate art. People with mental illness and with other disabilities, people who were homeless, people without money to buy art, all people were welcomed to come in and take a look.

Thank you Yuri. Thank you Beth. Thank you to all the volunteers and to the board of directors. Thank you to all the amazing artists (especially to those of you who really put yourselves out there to combat stigma in the Mental Health Awareness and the Homeless Awareness Shows). Thank you to the press for all the great coverage. Thanks to everyone who came to a show and to everyone who bought some art. Thank you to all the sponsors. Thank you to Minneapolis for being such an awesome art supporting city.

Please come out to the final gallery closing party on March 10th from 7-10 pm and say good-bye and thanks.

In all sincerity,

Amy Rice and The Spectrum ArtWorks Program

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