Shrink wrap art specialty of artist with cerebral palsy
For many people with disabilities, communication is often difficult. Adaptive art tools and materials help to remove these barriers, enabling artists with disabilities to express themselves and communicate their ideas and creativity through art.
Among them is Charles Jefferson, a local artist living with cerebral palsy, who will be the featured artist at “God’s Planets,” a new arts exhibition and collection of planet paintings on view from April 7 through May 5 at Santa Barbara Art Works, 28 E. Victoria St. in downtown Santa Barbara.
The public is invited to attend the exhibit’s opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. April 7 with live music and artwork for sale by 15 local artists with disabilities.
To support his needs, Mr. Jefferson uses shrink wrap to apply paint to his canvas and to create unique bold textures. This adaptive art technique helps him communicate depth, realism and a host of other positive qualities within his artwork.
“Paint is poured onto the canvas. Then, the canvas is shrink wrapped, and I move the paint around with my hands without a mess. My style can be described as expressive, where I just go with the flow. It isn’t precise or planned out but more of a gradual process where I never know what I’m going to get until the end,” said Mr. Jefferson,
“When things shut down due to the pandemic, I was watching documentaries about the moon, sun and planets in our solar system, and I was inspired to create each planet in a series of large paintings.”
Born in Port Hueneme and a Santa Barbara area resident for more than 20 years, he attended Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard and grew up going to a Baptist church.
“My faith is very important to me,” said Mr. Jefferson, who was born with cerebral palsy which makes it difficult for him to move his arms and hands to paint with accuracy.
“I was motivated to do art a number of years ago. There was a job coach from the Momentum WORK day program who was supporting me in my daily life who encouraged me to do art,” he said.
When he is not painting, Mr. Jefferson, a student at Santa Barbara Art Works, also enjoys mixing music.
Santa Barbara Art Works is an arts studio and gallery that helps artists with disabilities create, show and sell their work professionally. It also produces custom-designed adaptive art tools made by 3D printers. They include tripod grip handles, mouth guards and headpieces meant to hold a paintbrush for artists with mobility challenges.
“Our gallery showcases work that can be considered lowbrow art which often has a sense of humor. It may not be for everyone, but it allows our students to have fun and express themselves in ways they choose,” said Jacob Allio, Santa Barbara Art Works studio manager. “Our walls are full of great pieces, the type of art that makes you smile.”
“National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, observed each March, seeks to raise awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live. The campaign highlights the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities,” said Rae van Seenus, director of marketing and public relations for Momentum WORK.
Santa Barbara Art Works is under the family of services of Momentum WORK, a nonprofit based in Carpinteria. The gallery is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Members of the Momentum WORK Advocacy Group organized a Disability Awareness March in downtown Santa Barbara on March 23 to create public awareness about inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of community life and to champion accessibility for everyone.
“The group works to amplify the voices of people with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism and Down syndrome, and empower people to speak up about issues like cracks in city sidewalks, affordable housing and restaurants that fail to make dining areas accessible. Their march signs read, ‘We are capable!’ and ‘Say hi if you see us!’ to break down misconceptions and to spread kindness for all,” said Ms. van Seenus.
More than 20 locals with disabilities participated in the march on State Street from Santa Barbara Art Works to the ocean.
“People with disabilities are hard workers, and we want others to know we live here, too. Our goal is to spread awareness so that the disability community can participate in more activities in and around the community,” said Joe Haake, president of the Momentum WORK Advocacy Group.