(NEWARK, NJ) -- When Geeta Acharya arrived at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center as Corporate Compliance Officer in June 2010, she was impressed by its Arts Access Program, which empowers individuals with disabilities to create art without boundaries. Acharya, a resident of Bridgewater, is also an artist and was amazed by the facilitation process, which employs professional artists who follow the instructions of artists who may not have control of their hands and, in some cases, are non-verbal, communicating 'yes' and 'no' by a blink of the eye or a nod of the head.
Acharya, who had previously worked at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey (now Rutgers New Jersey Medical School), thought the program "needed more exposure", so she contacted Noreen Gomez, the medical school's Facilities Program Specialist, who curates New Jersey Medical School Arts, a year-long exhibition series showcasing hundreds of amateur and professional artworks created by the community at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences as well as members of the Greater Newark community it serves.
Based on Acharya's recommendation, Gomez visited Matheny, a special hospital and educational facility in Peapack for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. "It was overwhelming to meet the artists and see what they produce," she says. As a result, Arts Access became part of the spring/summer Collaborative Art Exhibition at the NJMS Medical Science Building in May 201l. This spring's CAE will mark the ninth consecutive year Arts Access artists will exhibit at the spring show. Throughout the years, other arts programs that were adapted from Arts Access, have also participated in the exhibit. This year, Arts Access artists will again be joined by artists from the WAE Center, the arts learning center at Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled in West Orange.
Eileen Murray, Arts Access Director, recalls that Gomez, "was so welcoming to the initial idea of Arts Access work on display at the medical school. I remember that she 'got it' and had an appreciation of the importance of art in daily life. We are thrilled to once again have the Arts Access artists' work exhibited on the walls of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. We look forward to this collaboration every year, and the artists are excited to see their work displayed in such a prestigious medical school."
Murray, a resident of Morris Plains, says the Rutgers exhibit, "has a special significance to Arts Access because, as an art program within a hospital, we've seen firsthand the positive impact the arts can have on individuals. And, it's gratifying to witness how our artists' art can then impact individuals in the medical profession."
Acrylics on canvas and digital paintings by 22 Arts Access artists will be on display at the spring exhibit. One of Arts Access' veteran artists, Cheryl Chapin, will be represented by a digital painting on metal called "Cascade of Light". Chapin, who lives in Matheny's community residence in Basking Ridge, likes to use greens and blues "because they are my favorite colors. I like to put bright colors and layers over them because sometimes it looks cool. I like block patterns and glass patterns."
Another Arts Access artist, Christopher Palmer, draws inspiration from comic books, television, and movies (you can see his "Jeopardy" piece above). According to Heather Williams, Arts Access Performing Arts and Outreach Coordinator, Palmer "is truly a modern 'pop' artist. His compositions are comprised of scenes, characters and costumes pulled completely from memory. The simplified shapes and color palette he applies to his work are reminiscent of work by Henri Matisse, but still in Chris's own signature style." Palmer will have an 'Untitled' acrylic on canvas at the Rutgers exhibit.
Gomez, a Maplewood resident who will be moving to Bedminster in June, has enjoyed meeting the Arts Access artists over the years. "I think their presence makes you feel humble," she says. "I have also been in awe of how professional all the work is, the planning of each piece to be displayed, the perfect framing. I can sit back, watch, and see the walls change!"
The spring 2019 Collaborative Arts Exhibit will run from April through August. A special reception, open to the public, will be held on Sunday, May 19 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. The Medical Science Building is located at 185 South Orange Ave. in Newark. Rutgers is asking reception guests to pre-register your vehicle. Please visit http://bit.ly/2WCoOQA.
PHOTOS: 1. Noreen Gomez standing in front of Arts Access’ Ellen Kane’s “Jungle Snow”, part of this year’s exhibit
2. Chris Palmer proudly showing off his painting “Jeopardy”
3. Cheryl Chapin pictured in from of her painting at last year’s exhibit at Rutgers
4. The Arts Access paintings hung on the walls of Rutgers NJ Medical School for this year’s exhibit