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6/2 - 7/29, 2017: Artists First "Variation and Adaptation"

Free & open to the public during gallery hours
Opening Reception on 6/2 during First Fridays (6-9pm)

6/2 - 7/29, 2017: Artists First

Artists First
"Variations and Adaptation"

On display June 2 - July 29, 2017
Opening reception of June 2, 2017 during First Fridays (6-9pm)


Variation and Adaptation

It is no secret that our city struggles with racial, economic, and ability diversity. Though wonderfully diverse, St. Louisians wrestle with how to integrate marginalized groups within our community into the mainstream in a meaningful way. Most of us believe, of course, that greater blending of the diverse segments of our citizenry would benefit us all. The difficulty is in knowing how to move forward toward that goal. Variation and Adaptation by Artists First offers a suggestion: if we move beyond grouping people by category and instead strive to understand individuals, we can open minds, shatter preconceptions, and provide space where new ideas will emerge.

The concept and outline for “Variation and Adaptation” created by artists Nancy Newman-Rice, Kimber Mallett, Melody Evans and Artists First’s Executive Director Sheila Suderwalla, serves as a way to explore what it means to be different, challenged, and courageous in the fight for acceptance, understanding, and security.

The exhibition title, “Variation and Adaptation,” is specific to understanding and celebrating diversity through individuality. Variation refers to the variations of life forms that naturally occur within any single species; some considered normal and some not. Adaptation refers to the ways variants adapt physically, emotionally, and behaviorally in order to survive in their environment.

At Artists First, members of the St. Louis disability community come together to create art and develop as artists. The Artists First studio provides a nurturing and safe environment where the artists are open with each other about their struggles. Variation and Adaption represents both an individual and collective visual voice expressing what it means to be normal or non-normal and in what ways, as outsiders, the artists struggle to achieve acceptance and feel safe within our larger society.

Featured Artists:

Artists First is a non-profit organization that fosters the growth of artists with disabilities through creative self-expression. Artists First offers art-based programs serving aspiring artists including adults with disabilities, youth and Veterans throughout the greater Saint Louis area.

A majority of those who participate in Artists First are a part of the overall exhibition and the exhibition’s featured artists are representative of the Artists First community.

Angela Gipson (Angela Gee) started with Artists First in the fall of 2015.  Prior to that she had been experimenting with acrylic paints at home. She loves combining unconventional tools/materials (such as credit cards and bubble wrap) with the simplicity of lines and circles to create complex and unusual patterns.  Her inspiration comes from all around her: furniture design, architecture, people and textiles. She wants the viewer to approach her work with an open mind; therefore she never titles her pieces. Her purpose is to give the viewer the opportunity to see anything their imagination conjures and also to promote playful discussion, which fosters deeper personal connection.

Jimmy Holmes (Sir James) drew his first drawing of Pink Panther as a young man in 1974. When he discovered comic books, he knew that he wanted to be a graphic novelist. He spent his youth drawing character studies and writing about his own original characters. Scott McCloud, Mike Grell, George Perez, Marv Wolfman, and other comic book artists influence Jimmy’s work. He includes his own messages on social, political, personal, and universal themes into his raw images and invites the viewer to consider issues as he explores them himself. 

Brandon Harris is meticulous in his art. With a photographic memory, Brandon’s forte is sketching city scenes in fine detail. Brandon enjoys drawing architectural structures particularly of New York City, Chicago, Europe, and India. Brandon uses his art in part to communicate and share his love of travel.