Saturday, March 14, 2009

Art Show 'A Wonderful Bridge to Inclusion'

The article below appears on the Community Living Ontario's website and is written by Natalie Miller.

About 100 original works will be on display at Unionville gallery
Friday, March 13, 2009 -- by Natalie Miller

From large, colourful abstract paintings to three-dimensional sculptures, an upcoming art exhibition will showcase the diverse works of Ontario artists who have an intellectual disability.

IDEAL-WAY, a non-profit organization that supports people who have an intellectual disability, received more than 500 pieces of artwork through its first province-wide art contest. Of the 500 entries, a juror has selected about 100 pieces which will be on display in the McKay Art Centre at 197 Main St. in Unionville next month. The IDEAL-WAY Art Exhibition runs from April 1 to 5.

Both the IDEAL-WAY and the art contest's juror are impressed with the calibre of the work submitted and optimistic about the potential impact of the show.

"After seeing the works, it confirms my opinion that art is beyond disability," says Andrew Hamilton, juror, Canadian landscape painter and fine arts professor.

"The artists who participated showed dedication and overcame many obstacles. While art provides an outlet it is predominantly a soul-searching exploration."

IDEAL-WAY says as an organization it is experiencing "widespread excitement at the number (of entries) and delight at the high quality.

"We are humbled by the response from all corners of Ontario," says Addie Daabous, executive director.

"This validates our beliefs in 'seeing ability in disability.' We were also impressed with the effort that so many organizations, schools and families put into supporting the IDEAL-WAY art contest."

Daabous notes several Community Living associations helped promote the contest and as a result IDEAL-WAY received entries from communities including Toronto, Thunder Bay, Huronia and Lennox and Addington.

While the art show is intended to provide an opportunity for people to showcase their work in a gallery setting, there is also an education component as well, Daabous notes.

"We hope to engage communities throughout the province to see what (people) can do rather than what they cannot do. The IDEAL art contest is one example of IDEAL-WAY's unique approach to positively re-educating mainstream society by publicly empowering (people who have an intellectual disability)."

Daabous says, for instance, while there may be one or two students from a particular school who have a piece in the show, their entire class, which includes students who don't have an intellectual disability, are attending to support their peers.

"This is a wonderful bridge to inclusion. These exceptional individuals have talents which the average mainstream person may never otherwise know. We are all equal, only different, and we all have our unique gifts."

One hundred per cent of any proceeds from the show, including works sold, go directly to the artists.

Admission to the show is free.

If you have feedback on this article, e-mail natalie(at) or call the newsroom at 800-294-0051.

Reprinted from Community Living Leaders, an online news service of Community Living Ontario.



Maddy said...

Great all round, especially the other students turning up to support their pals.

Don said...

The Ideal Art Contest is one example of IDEAL-WAY’S unique approach to positively re-educating mainstream society by publicly empowering persons with intellectual disability.

I believe I speak for all at Ideal-Way when I say, about our innovative organization, “We love what we do and we love how we do it.” … thanks to all of our volunteers.

Donald Yeo, CEO, Ideal-Way

Irene said...

Fantastic job. Read this article on the Community Living Ontario site. Great to see these guys and gals having their turn to shine. Most of us have never made it to a gallery. Good on them! See you at the Varley in April. Congratulations from Ottawa.

Jennifer said...

Our class is very excited to be participating in the Ideal Art Exhibition. We will be travelling by bus from Barrie. My students are thrilled. I was thrilled to see the many cities that entered the contest. Ideal-Way is doing something very unique. Keep up the wonderful work.

yvonne said...

everyone deserves their "15 minutes of fame". Ideal-Way gets it.

my friends and me will for sure visit this wonderful Art Show.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, all, for your encouraging words. IDEAL-WAY is a labour of love for everyone concerned (“We love what we do and we love how we do it.”). T

The Ideal Art Exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for the intellectually disabled to display their artwork, and we're grateful to those who enouraged these talented artists to submit their work.

See you at the Varley in April!

Anonymous said...

Just read Mr. Yeo's comments and would like to personally thank Ideal-Way for being forward-thinking and offering to persons with intellectual disabilities
unheard of opportunities!

Showcasing their talents firstly via the Poetry Contest and now the Art Exhibition is truly amazing. Talk about a morale booster to have their gifts recognized and honoured!

I will be one of the many waiting to bid on the artwork which we plan to prominently display in our
office lobby!

Best wishes for your continued success.

Gertrude J,

Anna said...

Good job everyone! Very pleased to see your progress.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Gertrude and Anna, for your encouraging words.

Gertrude, thank you for offering to bid on the artwork. I look forward to meeting you at the Art Exhibition!

Pierre and family said...

Glad to learn that we may be able to meet you at the Art Show, Maureen.

Our family will be staying over for two nights. Will there be others from Ideal-Way at the Varley?

Maureen Lee said...

I'm glad to hear that you'll be taking time out to visit the Art Show, Pierre! Our Founding Director, Robert Hajjar; CEO, Don Yeo; and Executive Director, Addie Daabous will be attending, and I happen to know that a number of volunteers will be there, as well.

See you there!

Pierre and family said...

Our son has Down syndrome and he is so excited that Robert has Down syndrome and he may be able to meet Robert at the Ideal Way Art Show.

Many thanks for the great Ideal-Way discount at the Delta Markham Hotel.

Maureen Lee said...

Pierre, what is your son's name? I know that Robert would love to meet your son, as well!

And I'm glad that you were able to take advantage of the great Ideal-Way discount at the Delta Markham Hotel.

Pierre and family said...

This year, our son, Marc, will be entering the Ideal-Way Poetry Contest AND the IDEAL-WAY Art Contest.

Marc is sooo pumped about your org. and its many projects! So are the rest of us. Love your blog too.

Thanks so much for all the ways your people encourage and promote joy and confidence in persons with Down syndrome, Autism, etc.

Pierre and family said...

I want to thank you and Ideal-Way for a wonderful event. Our son, Marc, was so thrilled to meet Robert! The two "Downies" hit it off immediately. Robert is an amazingly high functioning man.

Having corresponded with you via this blog for many months, my wife and me were so glad to finally meet you, Maureen. You and the other Ideal-Way people at the Show are all such very nice, welcoming persons, you made us feel like family.

The Art Exhibition is stunning, for its visual presentation and for the very high quality of Art being displayed. It was no wonder that the Gallery had a record number of visitors. Keep up the great work. God bless.

Maureen Lee said...

Pierre and family, It was very nice meeting you, and Marc, at the Art Exhibition. Robert loved meeting all the artists, and it was obvious that he took to Marc!

Thank you for your feedback on the Exhibition. Over 1,200 people walked through the gallery, over a period of five days (according to the Curator of the Varley Gallery, the average is 300 per month!).

And thank you for your kind words regarding the Ideal-Way team. As they say, it starts at the top. Our CEO and Exec. Dir. set the tone, and I truly believe this is one of the reasons the Exhibition was such a resounding success!

Stay tuned to the blog for updates, stories, and photos of our First Annual Art Exhibition!

Don said...

To describe the FIRST, ANNUAL IDEAL-WAY ART EXHIBITION as having been successful is a masterpiece of understatement. Well over 1,000 visitors attended!

Literally, busloads of winning artists with their families, friends, caregivers, arrived from all across Ontario.

Continually, in all directions inside Group of Seven artist, Frederick Varley's historic 1840s home/studio, we welcomed eyes which were wide with amazement and mouths agape in awe. No doubt Frederick Varley would have been very pleased.

Art by the youngest winning Artist, age 4, started at $40. and sold for $250. Uniquely, IDEAL-WAY will pass along 100% of such monies received directly to each particular Artist.

Many visitors booked their copies of the soon-to-be-published First Edition of “The IDEAL-WAY TO COOK” book which may be used for a fundraiser by other organizations, schools, etc. Some ordered $10.00 Ideal-Way T-shirts. Others joined T.I.P.P., The Ideal Penpal Program. Everyone promised to participate in this year’s NATIONAL IDEAL ART CONTEST. Many promised to participate in this year’s NATIONAL IDEAL POETRY CONTEST April 1 – June 30.

Generally, a wonderful time was enjoyed by all. Further information, photos, etc. will soon be posted on

Heartfelt thanks to all who attended the IDEAL-WAY ART EXHIBITION in support of persons with Down syndrome, Autism, etc. God bless.

Donald Yeo, CEO, Ideal-Way

Carol said...

The IDeal Art Exhibition was amazing!!!!!!!!!!! Our group just loved it. The show was extremely professional, the organizers are first class and attention was on the right thing -- the artists!

I think we took about 50 pics. All of the artists present felt like a celebrity. All those cameras flashing made it look like the paparazzi was there. Keep up the good work Robert.


Bonnie said...

Greetings from Kitchener. My family and I wanted to thank you for making our son feel so special. Your group made him feel appreciated and included. I heard this is going to be an ongoing event and we look forward to particpating again.

Addie said...

To everyone who attended the IDEAL WAY Art Exhibition, we thank you for your support.

To our talented group of special artists, you have touched me so deeply. Meeting all of you and hearing your stories makes my work emminently worthwhile. And, I thank you!

The joy that was experienced by everyone was incredible. The artists' cheerful expressions and smiles touched our hearts. We thank you ... for without you, we would not have the IDEAL WAY Art Exhibition.

Addie Daabous
Executive Director

Julie said...

Absolutely amazing and fantastic Art Show. While in the gallery, my husband Ron and me had the pleasure of meeting several of your artists from across Ontario. It was delightful. We are thrilled to learn that next year the show will be national. Looking forward to it. These special folks deserve this. God bless.

Julie & Ronnie

Rolly said...

Addie, Don, Robert, and the rest of the gang;
As newcomers to the IDEAL family, we were welcomed in tenfold. Windsor is getting an earful from us. We enjoyed the art exhibit and are sharing your vision and the pictures with those that support not only our son but inclusion as well. Once again thank you for your welcoming arms and we hope to see you all again soon. Rolly and Bob (Owen's Mom and Dad)

Addie said...

Hi Rolly,

Thanks for your kind words. It was wonderful meeting you and Bob. You are both first class Windsorites!

We are honoured that you feel a part of the "IDEAL Family" ... the feeling is mutual. What we do is from "the heart" and therefore the best job in the world. Glad you and Bob felt so welcome.

Thanks again for making the trip up from Windsor. Please give Owen our biggest congratulations for being an amazing exhibitor.

fyi, Others increased the bidding on Owen's art. So this means that the world of outsiders recognize Owen's talent not only his mom and dad. Kudos to you, Owen!!!

Looking forward to seeing all of you.

Cheers, Addie
Executive Director, Ideal-Way

Addie said...

To Bonnie, Carol and Julie,

Thanks for supporting the IDEAL WAY Art Exhibition. And, thanks for your kind words. We are so proud of our exhibitors. 41 cities represented in the show.

If you would like to share your photos with us, we would love to have them.

See you next year at the 2010 Ideal Way Art Exhibition.

Cheers, Addie
Executive Director, Ideal Way

Debra said...

What an awesome show! Our gang loved every minute of it. Great job Ideal Way and especially to Robert. It was wonderful meeting all of you. We will get everyone to participate next time.

Maureen Lee said...

It's wonderful to hear that the Ideal-Way Art Show had such an impact on so many of you - not just the artists who turned out to see their artwork exhibited, but also those who made the long trek to Unionville to view the exceptional artwork on display.

Thank you, Debra, for your kind words, and we're happy that you will be encouraging others to participate in next year's art contest!

Hilary said...

Brilliant concept. Your show truly was a bridge to inclusion. Our staff commented on how the mainstream individuals were mingling with the artists. What a delight.

Janet said...

Indeed your show was a wonderful bridge to inclusion. My family and I were visiting friends in Unionville the weekend of your show. Boy were we ever surprised! The calibre of art was incredible. We purchased three pieces of art which are being framed for our home. My husband said we should mark our calendars for next year. Best wishes to all.

Marjorie said...

The power of the internet is incredible, and Ideal Way is an amazing concept. I can't tell you how much I would have loved to have had something like this for my son when he was younger and growing up with a developmental disability. My son Roger is 54 today. We live in a small community outside of London.

Thank goodness the future looks so much brighter and promising for those younger than Roger. I wish all of you the very best.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Hilary, Janet, and Marjorie! I agree, the calibre of art was incredible, and, thankfully, the future looks so much brighter and promising for the intellectually disabled.

Marjorie, it was also interesting to see that there were artists older than your son, Roger, who ended up having their artwork exhibited at the Varley Gallery.

It seems that it's never too late to explore one's creative abilitites, and if Roger isn't interested in submitting artwork, Ideal-Way has a Poetry Contest, which opened on April 1st and ends June 30th.

I wish you, and your family, all the very best, as well.

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