Collaborative art exhibit helps special needs artists with disabilities

A collaborative exhibition of art and music, with a discussion of both of the art forms took place on December 16, at the Elephant Gallery, located at 1411 Buchanan St.

Nashville non-profit Friends Life Community, has partnered with visual artist, Lesley Patterson-Marx, and Nashville jewelry-maker, Tony Perrin, to create “Works in Tandem”, a collaborative art exhibit that explored what it means to engage creatively—in tandem—with others.

Community artists spent 2017 creating a variety of visual art pieces for exhibit and sale.

According to Friends Life Community Executive Director, Waverly Ann Harris, “Works in Tandem is a tangible, visual representation of our mission and ideology. The Friends reach new depths of creativity and self-expression with the support and collaboration of other artists,” Harris said. “It literally paints a picture of how much more beautiful we all become when we accept and value what each person brings to the table; it’s inclusion at its best.”

At Friends Life Community, the Friends involved in the Visual Arts Program, not only learned to express themselves creatively, but for many participants, through art, they developed skills that will help them contribute to the larger community.

According to Heather Barrie, Friends Life Community Visual Arts Specialist, “the Friends develop their creative talents in our studio environment, and then they practice self-advocacy by sharing their work in gallery settings. At the same time, they teach their typical artist peers how to be a better friend to those with special needs, building the relationships that open doors for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

This year, the artistic focus for the Friends have involved learning from intentional partnerships with local professional artists and creators.

Works in Tandem collaborative artist Lesley Patterson- Marx is grateful for the experience.

“While sharing the process of marbling with the Friends, I became aware that their developmental disabilities did not hinder their ability to express themselves and experience the amazement of creating something beautiful.”