Finally! The neurotypical world made more than reasonable accommodations. They made a special effort to include the mobility-challenged into their arena, and I had a blast. Yep. I sat out in a field and painted. No sidewalk for me next to an outbuilding and parking lot — ostracized from other artists.
“How did you get out there with the dragonflies and frogs? With the trees and grasses?” I hear you asking me. I know, I know. Right?
When I first read of the joint venture between the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC) and the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan (PAAWM) to host an Art Walk/Paint Out event at the Wau-Ke-Na Preserve, I thought I wish I could participate. With unusual boldness, I dashed off an email to the president of the PAAWM asking if it would be a barrier-free event all the while expecting the usual reply that the paths would be difficult terrain for a wheelchair. Instead, he said, “Yes, please come.”
“Yes, please come?” Were these words right there on my screen? I couldn’t believe it. I was being included. No, more than that, I was invited – please, come. These words swam before my eyes and a smile spread from cheek to cheek. I was going to participate in an outdoor painting event – really participate – in the fields – with other artists.
The SMLC (who are dedicated to land conservation, duh) had come up with a solution to the barrier problem: drive your vehicle to a site, dump your stuff, drive your vehicle to a designated parking lot. Now, before you start thinking it is incongruous for the preserve to allow a vehicle onto their pristine lands, it was all very carefully planned to keep a minimum impact on the earth.
In the past, I have encountered other land conservation groups who were almost hostile to letting people use the land. Not this group, not this past summer. While being dedicated to protecting nature (a/k/a fields, birds, wildflowers), at the same time, they designed the Preserve to include human nature as part of the natural environment. (After all, what is the point of land conservancy if no one can enjoy it?)
Their balanced approach revealed a respect for God’s creation (which does include us human beings after all). Rather than promulgating a negative attitude about mankind’s relationship with nature and her beauty, the Preserve developed designated lanes, mostly narrow pathways of mown grass, for walkers — which they let me use in a most unique way. These passages are walkable for the able-bodied but dangerous and impassable for a wheelchair.
There I was, smiling all the while as my husband drove me, my wheelchair, and all the paraphernalia associated with plein air painting to a location of my choice. After unloading, my husband moved my mobility van to the parking lot. (Thank you, Dear.)
What a joy! I was just another artist painting in a field. 😀
Once again, I have been invited to participate in the annual Art in Motion Art Show, which raises funds for the Art Therapy and Therapeutic Recreation programs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
It is a rare opportunity not only to display my paintings for sale but also to discuss the inspiration behind each piece.
This year’s event will be hosted in the beautiful, newly constructed Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, located at 355 East Erie, from 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
If you would like to purchase tickets, please visit: Art in Motion Tickets
It was one of those glorious Sunday afternoons. The sun taking no time to make known its ability to enforce the dress code of the day, and I was right there along with the rest of the crowd with my hat, sun screen, and umbrella.
I was at a family gathering. Didn’t matter that it was a baseball game. Yes, I am one of those people who doesn’t really care for baseball. I know, I know, it’s America’s favorite pastime. Or, so I’ve heard all of my life. Nevertheless, even though I am a born and bred American, it is not my favorite. Honestly, it would never even appear on any things-to-do list of mine.
Yet, there I was with the gang watching baseball. And, I wasn’t only sitting there passing time until it was over. Nope. I was yelling and whooping. Yes, I had become a fan in a few short moments. Mimicking the guy behind me, I called out such terms as, “Good eye.” (Huh? Good eye?) What happened? My grandson was playing.
Funny how one’s perspective can change with the slightest alteration in circumstances. It happens all the time. We just don’t notice until something unique comes along – such as my grandson being part of a baseball team. Surely changed my perspective on baseball. (I am even planning on traveling three hours each way just to watch him play in another game tomorrow.)
There is another area where my perspective has changed, also. It is the number of invisible fences that the mobility-challenged face every day, every where.
For example, the playoff park where my grandson was playing, on that beautiful, summer day, was designed with thoughtful consideration of handicapped people. The bleachers had sections carved out for wheelchairs; there was an additional restroom large enough for a wheelchair; plenty of handicap parking spaces; and expansive, concrete sidewalks. All this fabulous planning and accommodation helped make my day more enjoyable.
However, challenges still needed to be faced. Even though the bleacher stands sat on a concrete pad, the sidewalk ended 25 feet short of the stands. In between? A sea of rough, uneven gravel. To make matters worse, on one side were the bleacher stands and on the other side were the restrooms, food stand, and parking lot. Having the wheels of an electric wheelchair (550 pounds unoccupied) spin in gravel is akin to a car stuck in the snow. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be for someone using a walker.
The clincher (it’s a baseball term, right?) came at the end of the game when the team met for the coach’s pep talk (or whatever it is they say at the end of a game). It is that time when praises are given and awards are handed out. Only, the dugout was another sea of gravel away.
So, there we sat, my grandson’s paternal grandfather and I (his maternal grandmother), watching everyone else gather together as we were left behind another invisible fence.
Recently, I was forced into the noisy and congested world typical of American life. Yep. I had to go shopping.
It all started the moment I tried to squirt a little bit more of the most basic of all oil paints, Titanium White, onto my palette. With a PFFTHHPPPPP the remaining paint plopped out. Reaching for my backup tube, I found. . . nothing. Yep. That tube of Titanium White stuck in the back of the rack? It wasn’t white. It was Ultramarine Blue.
What? Impossible! Agghh! Okay, don’t panic. Just get some delivered.
Normally I can accomplish this task with a few clicks and, violá, the deed is done. Not this time.
Having pulled out my handy, lightweight laptop computer, I searched for a site that would deliver some paint within a few days. (Another experience of the typical American life.) However, with a click-click here and a click-click there, I discovered that it would take, drum roll – please, two weeks for the paint to arrive.
Oh, phooey, ptooey. I have to go to the store.
So, off I went to one of those big box stores that sell home goods, craft items, and art supplies. I live at least an hour away from any major city. Yet, I only had to travel 15 miles to buy my oil paint. (Another one of those pretty awesome miracles of the ordinary American life.)
As I rolled into the store, my eye noticed a sign for sale, “Be Original, Not Ordinary.” Huh? What’s wrong with ordinary?
Image this: A child who has never had the opportunity to be completely immersed in what would be considered a typical summer activity. Why? Because s/he is confined to a wheelchair or has autism or a brain injury.
I guess you don’t have to imagine it, do it? With all the ADA-compliance modifications that have already been made – and they are wonderful, the world is still largely out of reach for anyone with special needs.
There have been times when I have cried because I was sidelined because of a physical barrier. And, if I cried, I can only imagine how often a child has wept because s/he was relegated to an observer-only status.
Now, image this: A child or adult with special needs has the opportunity to be completely immersed in a typical summer activity. What a fantastic idea!
Well, we don’t have to use our imaginations anymore; someone has finally taken the barriers away: Gordon Hartman, the creator of the world’s first ultra-accessible water park. It is a fantastic idea, and it is a reality!
“Children and adults who have special needs are sometimes left out, not because they want to be but because sometimes things are not always adequate for them to use,” Hartman said.
Today is the opening day for Morgan’s Inspiration Island. A $17 million tropical-themed water park located in San Antonio, Texas. This astonishing park (check out the above link) merges those with and without disabilities into one experience. The greatest part of all is that it includes all special needs people.
There are waterproof wheelchairs that use compressed air instead of batteries (which the University of Pittsburgh helped develop); waterproof wristbands for those who tend to wander, quiet areas for those who get overwhelmed, and a way to quickly change water temperature for those who are sensitive to cold water. There’s more: fast passes for those who have trouble waiting in line, private wheelchair transfer areas, and the riverboat adventure attraction boats rise to meet passengers (instead of wheelchair ramps).
Admission? FREE FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES.
Anyone up for a road trip to Texas?