11 June 2009

Parking lot art — Jackson Pollock style

By Sharon Sullivan

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — In the spirit of Jackson Pollock, local amateur artists created a painting at The Art Center Tuesday, by rolling wheelchairs across a canvas stretched over a portion of the parking lot.The Pollock Project was named for the famed late abstract expressionist artist known for painting on the ground, and flinging paint randomly on the canvas.

Although not every painter Tuesday could cut out his or her own stencil — which was then applied to a roller in front of the wheelchair — most could at least choose the shape and color they wanted to add to the canvas.“We have quite a few clients who love doing art — especially the explosive colors,” said Nikki Benning, day program supervisor at Mesa Developmental Services.“A lot of people didn't show much interest in anything until we started doing these art projects. When you mention going to The Art Center, or doing art projects, they're ready. There are lots and lots of smiles.”The Pollock Project was a collaboration between The Art Center, MDS and Very Special Arts of Colorado and their Arts for All program. The nonprofit's executive director Damon McLeese, and his daughter, Zoe, helped supervise the event.VSA of Colorado is a branch of Very Special Arts — an international nonprofit organization founded in 1974.

McLeese calls it an “Arts for All mobile art studio. With a home office/gallery in Denver, he brings adaptive art equipment to communities around Colorado at least 20 to 30 times a year for similar projects.”“The nice thing about this, everyone has added something to this,” McLeese said. “So often things are done for them, or to them. This is a much more inclusive process.”Although it may look like one huge abstract painting, there are “lovely compositions within,” McLeese said.

Clients chose all kinds of shapes, including a chocolate chip cookie, birds, fish, and big geometric shapes.Three of the canvases within the larger painting were later stretched and placed in frames to be hung at the Art Center and at MDS, 950 Grand Ave.The Pollock Project was initiated by local artist Mark Saro, owner of Unishape Adaptive Equipment, a national company that builds products for people with developmental disabilities. Saro contacted Denver's Very Special Arts to bring the project to Grand Junction. Saro began sponsoring art classes for MDS clients a couple of years ago. Since then other groups have helped provide art classes for handicapped individuals.“Our goal is to bring back art programs for the disabled,” Saro said.Tuesday was the first time The Art Center has collaborated with the nonprofit VSA of Colorado.“We'll probably bring them back. People are having so much fun,” said Art Center Director Cheryl McNab.The Art Center offers an art program once a month for the disabled. This month's event was sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank.MDS clients have a wide range of disabilities, including multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, degenerative spine disease, quadriplegia, and cerebral palsy. Jessica Snarr is a 22-year-old with spina bifida. She enjoyed maneuvering her wheelchair across the canvas, Tuesday.“I like it. It's really neat for us,” Snarr said. “I love art.” Reach Sharon Sullivan at ssullivan@gjfreepress.com.

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