New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


Tune into Radio Jersey with Lee Mrowicki every Monday through Friday from 6pm to 8pm
Broadcast on Asbury Music!

Chet Cheesman Overcomes His Disability To Create Visual Art and Write His Autobiography

By Sandy Josephson

originally published: 07/21/2018

Chet Cheesman Overcomes His Disability To Create Visual Art and Write His Autobiography

(FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ) -- Question: “What happens when a mailman gets old?” Answer: “He loses his zip.” That’s one of several riddles programmed into Chet Cheesman’s augmentative communications device, and it’s a peek into his personality. 

Chet was born in 1974 with a rare genetic disorder called Lesch-Nyhan Disease, associated with high levels of uric acid in the blood, kidney involvement, and involuntary self-injurious behaviors. At age seven, he was admitted as a residential patient and student at the Matheny School and Hospital, a special hospital and special education school in Peapack, NJ, for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. Twelve years later, Matheny began a program called Arts Access that enabled people with disabilities such as Chet to create fine art, assisted by professional artists who functioned as their facilitators.

From the very beginning of the program, Chet was enthusiastic about Arts Access. He was one of the earliest participants, creating paintings by rolling his wheelchair on a canvas and sculpting with clay. Today, he not only paints and sculpts but also writes poetry, prose, and drama, choreographs, and dances in his wheelchair.

“When I work,” he says, “I don’t know what I want to do ahead of time. I decide on everything at once. It’s much more fun that way.” But when Chet comes into the studio, says Joe Matousek, his visual arts facilitator, “he sets high standards for himself, and reaches them. He loves to paint and enjoys creating whimsical stories about friends and family. He loves doing splatter paint and really enjoys watching the colors mix right in front of him and how the paint reacts to the canvas.” 

Chet Cheesman Overcomes His Disability To Create Visual Art and Write His Autobiography

Chet’s sisters  -- Amber, who lives in Ringwood, NJ, and Heather, who lives in Bordentown  -- are amazed by his ability as an artist. “The Arts Access Program,” says Amber, “has been great for Chet. I’ve attended the annual Full Circle events, which celebrate the program, and I have enjoyed his poetry and a play he wrote.” Heather describes her brother as “an accomplished writer, artist, and actor -- and so much more. He truly is remarkable and never lets his physical challenges stop him.”



The article continues after this ad

 


In 2008, Chet created a painting called “Amber”, which, of course, is his sister’s “favorite piece of work.” It’s an acrylic on canvas with complementary hues of deep purple and burnt orange swirl that mesh and overlap to create an overall pattern of movement, sometimes resembling flowers. The painting has also been printed as a silk necktie, available for sale as part of Arts Access’ merchandise selection, which includes scarves, necklaces, mugs, and cards.

Chet’s visual art pieces have been shown in exhibits at such venues as the Rutgers Medical School in Newark, the Atrium Gallery in Morristown, NJ, and the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

In April 2017, Chet, who now lives at Matheny’s community residence in Franklin Twp., NJ, began working on his biography with writing facilitator Sonya Kimble-Ellis. During the 30-minute writing sessions, which are held twice a month, he uses his communications device or board. He also has some limited verbal ability and will sometimes verbally relay what he would like to have written. In addition, says Kimble-Ellis, “Chet has a picture book of family and life photos that he created with a staff member at Matheny’s Adult Learning Center in Hillsborough, NJ. We have been using that book as a reference for memories and milestones in his life.”

Chet Cheesman Overcomes His Disability To Create Visual Art and Write His AutobiographyChet’s motivation for writing the book, Kimble-Ellis adds, was to raise awareness about Lesch-Nyhan Disease. “He feels it’s important that more people are made aware of Lesch-Nyhan. Writing a biography about his life and his experiences with the disability is a perfect way to do that.”

So far, Chet has done an outline for the book and has been working on the first two chapters, which deal with his childhood, family, and discovering he had LND.

Before embarking on the biography, Chet wrote several short stories. One of them, “Aliens Go to Earth”, was adapted into a play and presented at Full Circle 2013: Reflections. Arts Access is also compiling a book of works by male writers in the program to be released later this year, and one of Chet’s stories will be included in that book.

Former Arts Access drama facilitator Burt Brooks, who is now a marketing and communications specialist for Easterseals New Jersey, recalls an earlier short story converted into a play by Chet titled “Dream House”. “It was about a retired cop dealing with the awful things he had seen and done,” says Brooks. “Although not explicit in the text, it reflected some of the things Chet had to deal with in his own life. Chet likes lots of stuff with cops, FBI, crime, investigative sorts of things.”

Kimble-Ellis says Chet still likes writing “adventurous, action-packed pieces, but he also likes humorous pieces. Chet enjoys laughter and likes making others smile, too. He is a hard worker, and his excitement for life comes through in his writing and the other art he creates.”

This year, Matheny (now known as the Matheny Medical and Educational Center) will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Arts Access Program at Full Circle 2018: Then and Now, to be held on November 3 in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center on the Matheny campus in Peapack. The event will feature a visual art gallery exhibition of paintings and digital art created by Arts Access artists such as Chet and a stage presentation showcasing performance pieces by Arts Access dramatists, writers, and choreographers.

For more information on Full Circle or Arts Access, visit artsaccessprogram.org.

Chet Cheesman Overcomes His Disability To Create Visual Art and Write His Autobiography

Photos courtesy of the the Arts Access Program at Matheny​​​​​​​





Art Center to Participate in Summit’s Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- On Monday, January 21, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will participate in Summit’s Day of Justice, Equality, and Service to Others, organized by Shaping Summit Together. The community-wide event is taking place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the goal of educating, raising awareness, and engaging people in activities that help those experiencing hardship through circumstances arising from underlying inequality.
Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series Presents "The Erotic as Power: Sexuality and the Black Experience"
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The erotic is often seen as a realm of oppression and danger. But, as Audre Lorde argued 40 years ago, it also contains the potential for empowerment and struggle. This tension will be explored as the 39th annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series brings together eminent scholars and performers to examine the poltical and social lives of the erotic in the African American experience.
West Windsor Arts Council presents Faculty Student Show
(PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ) -- Every day students of all ages come to the West Windsor Arts Center to expand their knowledge and experiment with art and creativity. Whether they are adults or children, they take classes in order to try something new or hone their skills by learning from some of the best teaching artists in the region. Classes are offered in many artistic media including painting, drawing, and sculpting as well as fashion design, photography and the literary and performing arts. The annual Faculty Student Show aims to provide the experience of submitting and preparing their work for a professional exhibition as well.
Monmouth University Hosts Artist Talk with Sherrill Roland about "The Jumpsuit Project"
(WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University will host artist Sherrill Roland  on Tuesday, January 29 at 4:30pm in Wilson Hall Auditorium, to discuss his socially engaged artwork The Jumpsuit Project — that he uses to ignite conversations around issues related to mass incarceration.
Art House Productions Presents 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Join Art House Productions and presenting sponsor SILVERMAN for their 13th Annual Snow Ball Gala on Saturday, January 26th, 2018 from 7:00pm- 12:00am with VIP beginning at 6:00pm (Snow date: Saturday, February 2nd) at Art House’s location at the Cast Iron Lofts, 262 17th St, Jersey City, NJ.  This year’s Snow Ball features live music from Cook Thugless ("Cook Thugless are one of the coolest bands in New Jersey." -Bob Makin, My Central Jersey), live and silent auctions from Grandstand Sports, including sports memorabilia, local art pieces, and exclusive weekend getaways.


Inside New Jersey Stage Magazine Issue 54
(BELMAR, NJ) -- The latest issue of New Jersey Stage magazine contains something for every arts fan.  Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Oates, is the cover story in an issue packed with music, film, theatre, and art coverage.  The issue is available for free at www.NJArtsMag.com 
Nick Kiefer In Iceland
Nick Kiefer is an award winning graphic designer and photographer based out of Asbury Park, NJ. He is currently the Art Director at Netwave Interactive - a branding and advertising agency in Point Pleasant. NJ. Nick has also been designing and photographing in the NJ music scene for more than half his life. He has designed dozens of record covers and gig posters for local musicians in the Asbury Park area. After a heavy year packed with work, he and his fiancé Kristina, decided to roam around Iceland for a few weeks back in October of 2018. Here are some photos from the trip.
Peter Max Remembers Frank Sinatra
(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- As fans of Frank Sinatra across the world remember the legendary entertainer on what would have been his 103th birthday (December 12th), pop artist Peter Max provides a series of portraits of 'Ol' Blue Eyes' at different points throughout his career. Max, with a 5 decades-long career of his own, created these signature, vibrantly colored portraits, working with the Sinatra family to celebrate the Sinatra Centennial in 2015. They remain a fan favorite at gallery shows across the country.
Jerry Gant 1961-2018
Jerry, There is no bio that will seem complete for you. Where would it be listed, amongst your numerous and diverse accomplishments, that you talked to people, always seemed to find time for the younger artists, to talk to them and look at their sketchbooks? Your use of language as a material, testing limits, associations, and possibilities.
PODCAST: An Artist Asks "The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions Of The 21st Century"
In this podcast, we speak with them about art, activism and how women invented Postmodernism. “The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions of the 21st Century” runs through December 14th at Douglass Library.

Features You Might Like

Inside New Jersey Stage Magazine Issue 54

Inside New Jersey Stage Magazine Issue 54

(BELMAR, NJ) -- The latest issue of New Jersey Stage magazine contains something for every arts fan.  Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Oates, is the cover story in an issue packed with music, film, theatre, and art coverage.  The issue is available for free at www.NJArtsMag.com 


Artist Mel Leipzig At 83

Artist Mel Leipzig At 83

We recently met up with artist Mel Leipzig at Artworks in Trenton. He was there to do what he does every day – create big paintings of people he likes. While the Artworks staff went about their business getting the space ready for this year’s Art All Day event, happening this Saturday, Mel pulled a few of them aside to capture them in their natural habitat in acrylic.


Kevin Sampson: Solo Exhibitions In New Jersey and Beyond

Kevin Sampson: Solo Exhibitions In New Jersey and Beyond

“I’m a Civil Rights baby. I grew up laying across picket lines and blocking traffic.” Artist Kevin Sampson’s father, Stephen, was a well-known Civil Rights leader in New Jersey, and he instilled a commitment to community that his son still honors.


Basking Ridge Resident Returns to Matheny to Help Assist in Strategic Planning for 'This Amazing Place'

Basking Ridge Resident Returns to Matheny to Help Assist in Strategic Planning for 'This Amazing Place'

When Ellen Lambert was director of development at the Matheny School and Hospital in Peapack, NJ, from 1993 to 1995, one of her major achievements was the formation of a fundraising plan for what would eventually become the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center. The concept of Matheny's Arts Access Program  -- which enables people with disabilities to create art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators  -- was emerging in '93, and the arts center was eventually built in 2000.








Event calendar
Monday, Jan 21, 2019


THEATRE
I’m Not Running @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.