FAIRHOPE — The Eastern Shore Art Center held a very special event Thursday night as it paired up with local artists and artists with disabilities to display and auction the art they created through a program called VSA arts, formerly Very Special …
FAIRHOPE — The Eastern Shore Art Center held a very special event Thursday night as it paired up with local artists and artists with disabilities to display and auction the art they created through a program called VSA arts, formerly Very Special Arts.
VSA arts helps to raise awareness of people with disabilities, and also gives those with disabilities the chance to create and learn.
Nancy Raia, ABC director at the Eastern Shore Art Center, said she became interested in the program when she met Ricky Trione, a blind artist who has had several pieces displayed through Very Special Art exhibits prior to Thursday’s exhibit.
This year Raia and Trione had several pieces in the exhibit.
“Ricky and I have been working together this whole past year,” Raia said. “It’s like this mushroom being grown.”
Trione, an artist before he lost his sight seven years ago, said Very Special Arts means so much to him because it reintroduced art into his life.
“I had been an artist before I lost my sight, and I’ve loved doing art all my life,” Trione said. “Once I lost my sight, I thought it would be the end of ever doing art again, and I put it out of my mind.”
He said, a close friend of his since middle school and fellow artist, told him about the program last year. She explained that it paired a professional artist with someone with a disability and asked if he would be interested in trying it.
“I was unsure but I was willing to try,” Trione said.
He and his friend joined forces and planned to paint a cardinal, and he said his friend was surprised at how well it turned out.
“She got so excited that she took me over to (ESAC) and introduced me to Nancy Raia and doors just started opening left and right,” Trione said.
After that, Trione kept painting but also branched out into tactile arts, like sculpting.
“All these different, sweet people through Very Special Arts (are) opening up ways for me as a blind person to do art,” Trione said.
The confidence Trione has gained through the program and his art has led him to visit schools and “give hope” to children — to teach them “not to be afraid of art and have joy with art.” He said, “I’m just trying to be an inspiration with everyone I’m in contact with.”
Trione said not only has the program brought inspiration to him but also to others as it brings more and more artists and people with disabilities together.
He said he wants to pass along the joy it has brought him.
“It’s just a wonderful national organization that helps people with disabilities that would normally be sitting at home in a state of hopelessness, and then someone comes along that’s an artist and gives them some hope, a bright spot in their life,” Trione said. “To do clay, to do art, it’s such an amazing, healing force for me, and I want to pass that on to other people that need the healing I’ve received.”
He said it’s contagious and deserves to be shared.
“It’s kind of like sharing this wonderful, wonderful present,” Trione said. “It’s like a gift — once you receive it, then you want to share (it) with everyone.”
Raia said she gets phone calls constantly asking about the program and wanting to get involved. Many artists, although this is the first year the Eastern Shore Art Center has hosted, have been involved with the program in the past and after doing it once wanted to continue being involved.
“The professional artists love it and said ‘let’s do it again,’” Raia said. “That’s what drove us to host it here. We wanted to spread the love.”
Although this is the first year the exhibit has been held at the Eastern Shore Art Center, this relatively new-to-Alabama program has held exhibits for the past two years in Mobile.
Robin Fitzhugh, director of the Eastern Shore Art Center, said they are excited to be a part of the program.
Fitzhugh said she hoped having it on the Eastern Shore would help raise awareness of the program and give more people opportunities to be involved.
“We felt like by hosting it on this side of the bay that we might reach out to families that were not able to participate while it was in Mobile,” Fitzhugh said. “(We also felt it would) broaden the exposure of people to the program and that more people will be able to participate from both Mobile and Baldwin counties.”
She said it’s wonderful to be part of the program and to help expand the work they do in Alabama.
This is definitely something they want to continue to be a part of in the future and to hopefully set up a rotation system with Mobile for hosting the exhibits.
The exhibit began at 5:30 p.m. with a preview party and a silent auction. The live auction began at 7:45. There was a $25 admission and all proceeds will benefit VSA arts.