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Inside One Gallery’s Mission to Support Artists with Developmental Delays

The 15 artists represented by the LAND Gallery program all meet criteria under the scientific umbrella of a dual diagnosis that includes both a developmental delay and a cognitive issue such as autism.

Even in the sea of galleries that populate New York City, it's hard to find rosters that feature artists with disabilities. The entire roster of the Dumbo based LAND—League, Artists Natural Design—Gallery, however, consists of artists with developmental delays. The 15 adult artists who are currently a part of LAND's program use the gallery’s studio space to produce drawings, paintings, and sculptures that explore through both abstraction and figuration a myriad of cultural concerns. The artists represented by the gallery program all meet criteria under the scientific umbrella of a dual diagnosis that includes both a developmental delay and cognitive issue, such as autism.

Byron Smith, Swimmer, 2015, Mixed Media on Paper, 17"x14"

LAND operates as a nonprofit funded through the federal Medicaid health program, one with a dual mission to “teach life skills through the modality of art and allow artists a studio program to create their visions,” according to LAND curator Matthew Murphy, who founded the gallery in 2005. “We are completely hands off with the artists. We are here to provide materials and it’s an open studio where the artists work from their own experiences and interpretations,” says LAND Coordinator Sophia Cosmadopoulos. Noting that LAND is less an art therapy program and more like a daily residency, Murphy adds, “the art comes first, no matter what.” The gallery will have a booth at this year’s Outsider Art Fair and has had shows at MoMA, MAD Museum, and the Museum of Everything. The gallery has also coordinated commercial collaborations between LAND artists and retailers including J.Crew and Opening Ceremony.

Carlo Daleo, The Marines and the Skin Divers, 2015, Watercolor on Paper, 10.75"x14"

The LAND artists generally use popular culture as a point of inspiration for their works. Myasia Dowdell's paintings, Michael Jackson and LL Cool J, and Kenya Hanley’s Reggae Greats are portraits that draw on the artists’ fascinations with music. Michael Pellew’s drawing, 4 Decades of Celebrity, features several Pop portraits of the Kardashians, among other celebrities, to explore America’s obsession with fame. Carlo Daleo’s black-and-white figuration draws on postwar cartoon imagery to inform his drawing practice. LAND staff has also pushed artist Byron Smith to expand upon mediums by turning his drawings into sculptural works.  

Kenya Hanley, Reggae Greats, 2015, Ink on Paper, 24"x19" copy

“It’s really important that we become a landmark for the type artists that we serve. LAND is helping to set the stage for a lot of discussions about how people with developmental disabilities can participate in the world,” explains Matthews to The Creators Project. “There are other services that day habilitation programs that Medicaid offer but this is pretty unique because the artists are able to make a living from their work,” says Cosmadopoulos. “These artists are separate from mainstream art and art history and they are very original and doing their vision their way." She adds, “It’s a pretty pure way of creating artwork.”

Michael Pellew, 4 Decades of Celebrity, 2015, Pencil on Paper, 14"x17"

Myasia Dowdell, LL Cool J, 2015, Acrylic on Canvas, 20"x16"

LAND Gallery will be showing from January 21 through 24 at Outsider Art Fair. For more information, click here.

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