Partnership Spotlight: Arts of Life

Throughout this year The Block Museum of Art has welcomed the opportunity to meet virtually with groups and partners for conversations that explore objects from the Block’s collection. This Spring we have had the pleasure of hosting multiple close-looking and art discussions with the artists and educators of Arts of Life.

Founded in 2000, Arts of Life advances the creative arts community by providing artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities a collective space to expand their practice and strengthen their leadership. Within the program, each artist has their own studio space and works independently earning a monthly stipend for participation. The Arts of Life model supports creative decision-making and experimentation, creating a safe place to take risks while promoting self-confidence, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Today, the organization has two professional art studios and represents over 60 artists with varying levels of physical and intellectual disabilities.

In April, The Arts of Life team met with Block curator Corinne Granof to discuss the ways that artists use prints to circulate ideas, communicate messages and advance social activism. In consultation with Joshua With, Chicago Studio Manager and Megan Harrigan, Art Manager, Granof led a virtual tour of the exhibition For One and All: Prints from The Block’s Collection. The tour included an extended discussion of Jacob Lawrence’s Confrontation on the Bridge (1975) together with artists, staff and program volunteers. In May, Block Museum docent Brianna Heath was able to visit with the Arts of Life team to lead a discussion around Deborah Roberts’s She’s Mighty, Mighty (2017) and Jim Nutt’s Twixt (1997). Together the group discussed the complexities of portraiture and “what’s at stake” in representing an individual through art.

It was a privilege and pleasure to meet the artists involved in Arts of Life! In our session together, it was apparent that the organization is imbued with kindness, caring, and respect – values we are trying to cultivate in the museum today. The participants were insightful and generous, and it was inspiring to hear their responses to artworks in The Block’s collection and to see their artistic creations.

– Corinne Granof, Academic Curator
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