Elaine Parks, (standing), VisAbility Art Lab program director, works closely with Art Lab Artists
Inspiring individuals of all ages and abilities to more deeply discover their talents, express their ideas, and learn through the arts is an essential goal of VisArts. VisAbility Art Lab is one of the many initiatives we offer to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are looking for a place to create art without judgement.
The program, launched in 2015, provides artists with a creative space, art materials, and support and career mentorship from professional artists and curators, so that they can create, exhibit, and sell their work. Lab artists, who describe themselves as neurodiverse, also learn important skills in preparing their art for exhibitions, pricing their work, developing an artist statement, and engaging with the public in person and on social media to promote their art.
The long-term program has grown from four to 27 artists who enjoy the benefits of working independently in a community with other artists with similar interests and common goals. Discussions, critiques, and feedback happen on a daily basis. Artists provide each other with encouragement and support, hold their colleagues accountable, and often become friends. Three of our current VisAbility Art Lab artists have worked together since the program’s founding and have been instrumental in building a sense of community and providing feedback and guidance as the program has matured over the past six years.
VisAbility Art Lab is open for full-day or half-day sessions with artists working in a less structured yet professional environment. Each artist comes to the studio on an individually- scheduled basis. They create art at their own pace and in the medium of their choice including ceramic, glass, digital art, painting, drawing, and sculpture. Like all professional artists, VisAbility Art Lab participants receive payment when their work is sold and design and licensing merchandising fees. They also receive regional recognition through VisArts’ gallery, website, and in digital marketing and social media postings.
Leading VisAbility Art Lab since its founding is Elaine Parks, an artist who has been creating art for as long as she can remember. Elaine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from American University and a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from George Washington University. She has worked with adults and children in a variety of settings throughout her career.
VisArts’ four galleries feature exhibitions exploring the breadth of contemporary art featuring emerging to mid-career artists. Exhibits reflect a wide range of media and experimental approaches that offer the viewer unexpected interactions with art. Each year, the Concourse Gallery is home to a group exhibition by VisAbility Art Lab artists. The gallery is approximately 500 square feet and is located on the second floor in the Artists Concourse alongside our Kaplan and Common Ground Galleries. The annual VisAbility Art Lab exhibition is held in conjunction with exhibits in VisArts’ three other galleries. An opening reception for artists from all four shows is held on the first Friday evening of the exhibition’s four-week schedule.