Artists with disabilities get a platform at FSU museum

April Fitzpatrick’s’ “a flower of many” painting drew plenty of spectators during a recent exhibit.

By Josiah George

Outlook writer

For most of her life April Fitzpatrick lived with personal mental challenges. She’s always had a passion for painting on canvas, too.

In all the years she’s been honing her skills as an artist she hadn’t found a  significant platform, though. Not until last Thursday.

Fitzpatrick was one of the few artists, who showed up for an exhibit at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts. The event was staged by Arts4all, a state-wide organization that provides an avenue for people with disabilities to display their work. 

“Having support from different arenas confirmed that my work isn’t in vain and that people like my work for what it is,” said Fitzpatrick. “Being an entrepreneur is difficult on its own spectrum along with having disabilities in this world.” 

Prior to her recent display, Fitzpatrick had shown her work to an audience just once at a party hosted by a friend. Occasionally she would sell a few pieces through referrals.

 Her struggles to find a permanent platform is similar to what many artists with a disability encounter. However, until June 14 they’ll have the FSU Museum of Fine Arts to show off their work.

“We want universal accessibility for the arts and culture,” said Susan Baldino, regional coordinator of  Arts4All. “We want to give people of all abilities; the same opportunity to exhibit their work and to have social inclusion amongst anyone.” 

One of the pieces of artwork on display shows the falling of the Twin Towers and the rise their replacement the Freedom Tower.
Photos by Josiah George

The art that was displayed in the exhibit was chosen by the program’s art registry Baldino. The artist had to submit three different pieces for consideration. 

Arts4all has events at different venues around the city as well as the state. Another exhibit featuring different artists will be presented downtown at the state capitol building during the fall.

 “This art emphasizes that art making can be meaningful to people of diverse backgrounds and disabilities,” said museum director Preston McLane. “People can find it through creative expression; ways to heal and build self-esteem.” 

Many of the artists had the support of family and friends.

With music playing in the background, spectators closely inspected the artwork and took time to learn more about the artists and their work.

Visitors were especially fascinated by Cheryl Kinderknecht’s piece, “Transitional stages.” Many were impressed with the multiple layers of paint that Kinderknecht used.

  Not every artist displayed their work on canvas. Trevor Williams lit up the room with his guitar and vocals. His lyrics were about hardship he’d faced, while coping with the challenges of living with autism.

 Being featured multiple times in an art museum gave a meaning to art. 

Paris Winkle, another artist coping with autism, said she felt fortunate to have a place to exhibit her work. She called it a reprieve from her disability. 

Her painting of an elf had an aqua blue vine that ran through its body, illustrating self expression in spite of facing a difficulty.

Her painting also had splattering of glitter; something that she said is intended to bring out the inspiration that is in everyone.

“My art piece is to provoke emotion in the viewer,” she said.