Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's All About the Art

Neil MacDonald, on the left, one of the finalists in the 2009 Ideal-Way Art Show, with his photograph of a canoeist on a lake.

When was the last time you had a gasp-of-awe moment? Maybe you were in a canoe, first thing in the morning. You were deep in thought… or possibly in a meditative state, all thoughts safely shelved for now. You turned a corner, and there it was: the dawn’s early light spilling its colours upon the water. And you gasped in awe. A transcendental moment you will never forget.

The word ‘transcendental’ is described as “being beyond ordinary or common experience, thought, or belief.”

There’s something about a transcendental moment: when you are immersed in it, everything falls away.

As I stepped into the Varley Gallery’s Eckhardt McKay House in Unionville, over the weekend, a wave of something akin to the early-morning canoeist’s discovery washed through me.

I already knew that the best 70, of more than 500 entries, in’s First Ever Art Contest for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities would be on display. It was the energy in the room that I wasn’t prepared for – the creative energy that drew over 1,000 visitors, and busloads of winning artists with their families, friends, and caregivers, from all across Ontario, to the hallowed halls of the Group of Seven artist, Frederick Varley's historic 1840s home/studio.

As Don Yeo, the CEO of Ideal-Way said, “we welcomed eyes which were wide with amazement and mouths agape in awe."

Mark Fitz-Gerald, our winning Artist VIP volunteer from Ottawa, told us, "I came to see my art at the Show and I left with a new family."

But something was missing. John Vicic, one of the artists, made his way to the over-sized canvas that was set up specifically for the intellectually disabled artists visiting the show. Paint whatever you want, we told them. John had stepped away from the crowd, and as he took up the brush, he entered into another place.

And that’s when the penny dropped. When an artist is in the creative moment, everything else falls away, but the Inner Editor never leaves his or her side. Its voice shadows the artist, and whispers, “Is that the best you can do?… Your last piece was much better…let’s face it, you’re losing it…”

The missing piece from this Art Exhibition was a lack of creative angst. The 'ego' was nowhere to be found. Each of these artists showed up in the creative moment, and asked no questions. As one artist said, “My art is all about freedom. I’m free when I paint.”

It was a life lesson for every person in the room. The artists were not interested in external validation. They did, however, offer encouraging words to the other artists.

Imagine, it was all about the art. Period.

I’d love it if you would share your experiences — your stories, family photos, or home videos.

What happened when you dared to let the paint fly, or you picked up the camera and captured a moment?



Gordo said...

As a long time fan of this blog, I went to the Ideal-Way Art Show hoping to meet you, Maureen, and to observe, first hand, Ideal-Way doing its thing.

WOW! The vibrant energy throughout the Show was almost palpable. What a rush!

Not only did I meet a charming lady named Maureen, I was blown away by so much very high quality Art, the professionalism of its presentation, and the Art-historic venue. It was sooo wonderful.

You and the others from Ideal-Way made each Artist feel like family.
The smiles-per-face average must have been 99%. You people "get it".

simona said...

as my hubby and me expected, ideal-way put on a fabulous Art Show, very professional.

what we were NOT expecting was even more fabulous, meeting many of the Artists and actually watching them paint on a big group canvas in the large sunroom. they all wore great big smiles the whole time. cameras were flashing continually. the focus was at all times totally on the right people, the Artists. bravo ideal-way. yes, you people "get it".

Pierre said...

The pièce de résistance for us was somebody actually bought our daughter’s Art! Now she is itching to enter the ideal-way poetry contest. Ideal-Way has caused her self confidence to blossom. Merci.

Maureen Lee said...

Gordo, It was wonderful to finally meet you in person. I'm glad you experienced, firsthand, "the vibrant energy that was almost palpable" at the Art Show. I'm glad, too, that you felt 'at home', a part of the Ideal-Way family!

Pierre, you must be very proud of your daughter, and the fact that she sold her first piece of art has obviously given her the self-confidence to extend her creative reach. We look forward to reading her poem!

Simona, as you noticed, the Art Show focused entirely on the artists - and to see their smiles as they received certificates of achievement, or saw their artwork hanging on a gallery wall, was "a rush" [very true, Gordo]

Marnie W. said...

Kudos to Ideal-Way for an A-1 Art Exhibit!!! To see the beaming faces of these special artists as they were applauded, cheered and photographed beside their artwork brought tears of joy to my eyes! The warmth and love in the gallery was palpable as the Ideal-Way people greeted visitors and directed them around the place. I am so glad that I decided to make the trek from Lindsay! Look forward to bringing the entire family next year and taking home a few more pieces of artwork. Keep up the great work, Addie and Rob!!

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Marnie - it really was wonderful to see the artists' faces as they showed their artwork to others, or were photographed beside it, wasn't it?

We're so glad you made the trek from Lindsay, and we look forward to seeing you and your family next year!

Isabelle said...

Hello Maureen and Ideal Way

Your Art Show was delightful. I recognized Neil's face in your story. I spoke with him at the gallery. What a wonderful young man, as were all the other artists. Looking forward to visiting your next show. Job well done.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Isabelle, for your kind words. I'm glad you got to meet Neil MacDonald - I have included photos of Neil in previous posts, as it seems there is nothing he cannot do! He is a very talented young man, who also happens to live life to the fullest.

Looking forward to seeing you at the 2010 Ideal-Way Art Show, Isabelle!

Mike Rafton said...

I came away from the Ideal-Way Art show completely blown away. The art was simply amazing and as the father of of one of exibitors it was very gratifying to see my sons work displayed. All the people involved need to really be honoured for this undertaking as it was an absolute success. BRAVO!! It was also wonderful meeting you Maureen're my sister and I met you a long time ago at birth so..oh never mind. Again to all concerned a BIG THANK YOU! You are making a huge positive difference in peoples lives. Looking forward to being involved in the next Ideal-Way project.
God bless

Jenny said...

I wish I could have attended the art show - I'm amazed by the number of people who were able to come out and support all of these talented artists. I'm sure this show will only grow in popularity as people hear of it! Congradulations to all of the artists and volunteers!

Maureen Lee said...

Mike and Jenny, I agree: The art "was simply amazing", and it was very gratifying to see how many people made it out to the Art Show.

Certainly, the artists deserve this kind of recognition, as well as 100% of the proceeds of the sale of their artwork. Thanks for your support!

~Zurama~ said...

Hi Mareen, there is an award for you on my blog Autistic by Injection,



Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Zurama, for this award. I'm touched, once again, by the unity, and commitment, of the autism community!

Addie said...

Congratulations Maureen on another wonderfully written post. You always amaze me. Many thanks for your significant contribution to Ideal Way. The blog certainly recognizes the many artists who participated in the 2009 IDEAL WAY Art Show. Thanks a million!!

Klaus said...

Bravo Ideal Way! Your Art Exhibition was the most happening Art Show we have ever attended!

We can’t be the only ones that think so because, heck, we even had to line up for a few minutes before getting inside. This was one well organized event and the focus was always on the Artists, as it should be. Good stuff.

Love the slide show on this blog too, Maureen. And, that’s not just because one slide shows my Artist niece in the Art gallery. Thanks though. Now, the other Artists can all check to see if their pics are being shown. You really help our guys. Keep up your great work.

your great fan, Klaus

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Addie, for your encouraging words. As Exec. Dir., you, and Don Yeo, CEO, make it easy to 'just show up' and contribute whatever gifts your volunteers possess.

Klaus, I'm glad you enjoyed the Art Show! I hope the other Artists check out the slideshow - one of our volunteers is busy creating a personalized video of the Show, so keep checking back to the blog for this exciting new addition to it!

Nancy said...

I must say I am absolutely amazed at what I have seen with your art show. And I love all the comments. I visited Autistic by Injection as I have a nephew who was diagnosed with autism 3 years ago. Pretty cool site. Thought it was neat that they have an award for you on their site. Great job everyone!

Lionel said...

Cool posting. What were the ages of the artists and did you have categories? It was really great reading some of the comments like one from Pierre who said someone bought his daughter's art. Must be quite an accomplishment for these guys.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Nancy and Lionel for your kind words. Yes, it really is quite an accomplishment for the artists - and all ages submitted their artwork (the youngest was four years old!). As for categories, the art could be on any subject of their choice, in the style of their choice, as well as in the medium of their choice.

So photographs, sculptures, paintings, etc. were submitted - and if you want to see some of the work exhibited at the Varley Gallery, check out the slideshow on the blog.

Lionel said...

Incredibly fantastic. Thanks for the information which I will pass on to many others. I can see that the future of Ideal Way looks very bright. Wonderful job.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for your feedback, Lionel, and for letting others know about Ideal-Way.

Also, you might want to let them know about the 2009 IDEAL Poetry Contest, which opened April 1st and ends June 30th.

P.S. Ideal-Way has spread its wings - the Poetry Contest is now open to any persons with an intellectual disability living in Canada!

Gordo said...

WOW! Thanks so much for your P.S. Maureen. I immediately left a message for my sister in Vancouver that the Ideal-Way Poetry Contest is Canada-wide now. Last year, she kept on saying “Oh, I wish this poetry contest was open to disabled persons in B.C.” The rest of our family will be so glad that she got her wish. Thanks.

Maureen Lee said...

Gordo, I'm glad to hear that your sister received her wish!

Robert Pio Hajjar said...

Maureen, I was so happy to hear from Mrs. Wade of Holy Angels, my first teacher! I used to give Mrs. Wade a lot of trouble when I was small but I know she is very proud of me now! She called to tell me she was glad to hear about Ideal-Way and to encourage me to keep on doing good things for people like me!
Thank you for this great blog!
Hugs and kisses.

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