Artwork created by VisAbility Art Lab Artists
VisAbility Art Lab is a studio program that provides artists with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities a place and the resources to create art and develop the skills necessary to work in the arts.
The program is fully integrated into VisArts, and Lab artists enjoy all the advantages of an arts organization that features galleries, exhibitions, a studio artist program, and art classes and camps. Here, they’re free to discover and explore their talents, express their ideas, and start their careers as artists.
The Lab was created in 2015 for neurodiverse artists to make art at their own pace, gain experience in applying and preparing for exhibitions, and learn how to advocate for themselves as artists. Today, the program features a light-filled, street-level studio; art supplies; professional development workshops; a gallery that’s open to the public; an annual exhibition at VisArts; peer feedback; and career mentorship by artists, curators, instructors, students, and staff in our community.
The program has grown from four to more than 30 participants who work independently alongside other artists with similar interests and common goals. Lab artists encourage and support each other, hold their colleagues accountable, and often become friends. They also apply their knowledge – and increased confidence – to other professional and volunteer pursuits, including disability advocacy at the state and federal level, Special Olympics, and more.
VisAbility Art Lab is funded by VisArts and supporters like you!
The Lab is in our Pop-Up at 36F Maryland Avenue; it’s open Monday-Thursday from 10 AM-2 PM. Lab artists work in an informal yet professional setting for full- or half-day sessions and create in a variety of media, including ceramics, glass, digital art, painting, drawing, and sculpture.
VisArts promotes the artists and their work on our website, in email newsletters, and on social media. Like all professional artists, Lab participants are paid when they sell their art; they’ve earned more than $22,500 since the program launched. Recently, Amazon purchased art by two Lab artists to feature in connection with the Prime Video series, “As We See It,” and a third Lab artist was selected to help design a mural at Wheaton Regional Park to celebrate Autism Awareness month. Other Lab artists have had their work included in local and regional juried exhibitions.
Each year, Lab artists exhibit selected works in VisArts’ Concourse Gallery. The show is held in conjunction with exhibitions in our three other galleries, which showcase the work of emerging to mid-career contemporary artists. Lab artists have numerous opportunities to present their work at other venues, including Round House Theatre, the Ratner Museum, the American Visionary Art Museum, Art Enables, The Arc Baltimore, Shop 53 Tattoo and Art Studio, and the Takoma Park Folk Festival. They also show their work at VisArts’ Rockville Arts Festival and host open studios where visitors can view and buy original pieces.
The 2023 VisAbility Art Lab Exhibition was in the Concourse Gallery from January 11-February 5, 2023. The Lab had an exhibition at The Seneca Rockville from March 25-April 28, 2023, and had two booths at the 11th Annual Rockville Arts Festival on Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7, 2023.
Check out work by Lab artists at Art Enables’ Outside Forces exhibition from September 3-October 21, 2023 (an opening reception will be held September 11, 2023) and at Main Street‘s Belonging show through October 27, 2023. The Lab will have booths at the Takoma Park Folk Festival on September 10, 2023 from 10:30 AM-6:30 PM and at Rocktobierfest on September 30 from 11 AM-5 PM.
The Lab will also host open studios in VisArts’ Pop-Up (36F Maryland Avenue) on October 22, 2023 and December 10, 2023 from 2-4 PM. Meet the artists, talk with them about their practice, and take home original artwork to gift – or keep.
Check out our In the News page to view TV interviews with Lab artists and Elaine Parks, VisAbility Art Lab Director.
Director Elaine Parks has been with VisAbility Art Lab since its founding. She has a BA in Studio Art from American University and an MA in Art Therapy from The George Washington University. Parks has been creating art as long as she can remember and enjoys sharing her passion for the arts with children and adults in a variety of settings.
Questions? Contact Elaine Parks at 301.315.8200 x127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VisAbility Art Lab | 36F Maryland Avenue | Rockville, MD 20850