Spring flowers are the theme of “Art in Bloom” an exhibit that premiered Thursday evening, June 14 at ARTiculate Gallery, 1100 16th Street NW.
The gallery serves as a commercial space of Washington Very Special Arts an organization dedicated to using the arts to serve children and young people who have or have had learning disabilities.
As the evening sun began to shine through gallery windows the vibrant colors of coral, tangerine, turquoise, and fuchsia shined through the floral arrangements and wild flower fields of the students had created. Each portrait on the ivory walls had a mini-biography beside it to recognize that student’s achievement.
As people walked in the front door, ARTiculate apprentice Marcus Morgan stood there smiling, greeting them with hello or a friendly nod. “I’m having fun talking to everybody,” he said. His mother was standing next to him.
Phyllis Morgan made no attempt to disguise her pride in her son’s acrylic painting of fuchsia tulips in an iridescent vase. She watched as people passed by and commented on the craftsmanship of her son’s work.
“His paintings always sell,” said Morgan. Her son, she said has been an ARTiculate apprentice for four years now and has gained a greater confidence and awareness about what he wants out of the life because of the specialized training of the program.
All the ARTiculate apprentices were at the reception. They often huddled and watched people study and admire their work, yet never were shy or removed from answering questions about their paintings.
James Lafferty-Furphy is a lifestyle and vocational advisor at Washington Very Special Arts, says the program does one-on-one training with the young people to prepare them to interact with people they are meeting for the first time or still are getting to know.
“They’re all very sociable. It’s a challenge sometimes, but anybody will tell you events like tonight make it all worth it,” said Lafferty-Furphy.
All the artwork for the exhibit was created inside the walls of the gallery under the guidance of art instructors or working artist aides. Participants in the program, ages 14 to 25, put on four to eight shows each year that often focus on seasonal or cultural themes.
In February, the students paid tribute to music with “Unplugged.” Some of the artwork like painting, sculptures, hand-painted boxes and masks from the previous shows still hung on the walls and sat on glass circular shelves for sale.
Leanne Smith Nurse, chairman of board for WVSA, says at ARTiculate they try to create a special environment for where students can learn how to succeed in life.
“We have worked with a wide range of students…At this program we try to give a basis for success,” said Nurse.
All of the artwork in the gallery is for sale. The apprentices’ artwork will also be available for purchase in CVS drug stores across the city.