December 24, 2015 ‘ART … FOR EVERYONE’ Exhibit tours the county, collects admirers
Kristin Burrhus dabs her brush into a puddle of blue paint, then stirs it into the white.
She gets lost in her art, stroking her sky-blue mixture onto paper. In an hour or so, she adds a green and brown tree, two yellow suns and a nativity scene. Painting becomes art and from there, experience has shown her, anything can happen.
Burrhus is a 50-year-old client of Duvall Homes, a private nonprofit provider of housing, health care and living skills to adults with developmental disabilities. She was born with an extra chromosome, a condition called Down syndrome that causes cognitive delays and other health problems. But Burrhus has emerged as an artist who takes her craft seriously and has sold some of her paintings.
One day this month, she was among a dozen artists working under the instruction of Amelie Bush-Rogers. The art classes are both the end of a cycle that began about a year ago with a simple showing of works by Burrhus and other Duvall Homes artists.
The classes are also the beginning of something: Painters getting instruction, materials and time to create.
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Duvall Homes was looking to raise its profile in the community last year. Elizabeth Bhimjee, the director of development, said the organization agreed to host a DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce business after hours event. She got permission to host the event at the Hand Art Center at Stetson University, rather than at Duvall’s Glenwood campus, as she figured more people would attend.
“Because I had seen some of the artwork being done here, and I thought it was very good, I asked if we could showcase our artwork (at Stetson),” Bhimjee said.
Tonya Cribb Curran, director of the Hand Art Center at Stetson, said it was not hard for her to green-light an exhibit of Duvall Homes’ clients from a philosophical standpoint.
“For me, the idea of arts education is important for people of all ages and all ability levels,” Cribb Curran said. “I believe that art can be very powerful with regard to helping people express themselves. I’d like to support and give voice to them because art is for everyone.”
Much of what she saw she would classify as contemporary folk art.
“There is sort of a raw feel to these works that is really appealing,” Cribb Curran said. “It speaks to the artists’ experience, what they enjoy, what they like.”
So the event was held last February and 120 people attended, Bhimjee said. That’s more than three times the usual number.
Nick Conte Jr., executive director of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce, and his staff saw the response to the Duvall artists’ work.
“We said … we’d love to display it,” Conte said.
So for the month of March, any visitors to the DeLand chamber’s offices were exposed to the Duvall art.
“Some of the work they had was amazing. … Incredible abstract stuff,” Conte said. “To give them the platform to show the world is a big place and appreciates their contribution, that’s a pretty small price for those of us who appreciate the arts.”
The Duvall art program exhibit, dubbed “Art … For Everyone,” started making its way around Volusia County. In April, the Gateway Center for the Arts in DeBary showed it. In May, it went back to the Victoria Gardens Clubhouse in DeLand, then DeLand City Hall in June.
In July, the Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center displayed the collection, which then went to the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach in August and September. It has since also been part of a Duvall Homes 70th anniversary celebration, shown at the Athens Theatre in DeLand and will continue showing until Jan. 10 at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens.
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While shown, the works were spotted by a patron connected with the Bond Foundation of Winter Gardens, and before long, the Duvall Homes received a $3,000 check to support “Art … For Everyone.” An art teacher, Bush-Rogers, was hired to work with Duvall Homes clients.
“This has taken on a life of its own,” said Steven DeVane, CEO of Duvall Homes. “I don’t know if we’d call it surprising, but it is encouraging to see how it has played out. From my perspective, the biggest factor is the community engagement.”
Moving the art around Volusia County has given Duvall Homes exposure to people and places it normally doesn’t reach.
Bush-Rogers, the teacher, said she has seen growth in many of the Duvall Homes students.
“I’m 71 years old and they inspire me,” Bush-Rogers said. “I work with kids normally. Here we have a group of adults who are 50 years old and up, and I’m blown away at the growth in self-esteem I see.”
One is a client who cannot be named because of her family’s wishes. When Bush-Rogers started teaching, the student would only use red. After several weeks of classes, she now uses her full palette.
“That seems pretty small, but it’s mammoth,” Bhimjee said. “It’s hope and a whole new dimension.”
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