Arts and Culture

Art for All show aims to challenge and include

A gallery setting
Lydia Sponslier’s large scale work and self-portraits are on display at the University of Minnesota’s ART for ALL show.
Courtesy of Nik Fernholz

After 18 months without in-person exhibits, eight artists in the University of Minnesota’s Art for All program will be able to share their work with the public and give them essential exposure.

Nicole Noblet, a visual artist who creates colorful fabric art, said one of her favorite pieces is called “Fred the Friendly Monster.”

A stitched piece of artwork
“Fred the Friendly Monster” by Nicole Noblet, made with yarn medium.
Courtesy of Nik Fernholz

“It is an embroidery piece that I originally drew,” she said. “Then I made it into a linoleum cut and it is a brightly colored monster.”

Noblet, who uses a computer to speak, enjoys making art. She also wants her work to dismantle stereotypes and show that people with disabilities are valued members of society.

Other pieces in the gallery include abstracts and nature paintings, ceramics, textiles and portraits, some splashed with warm color and others more cool and melancholy.

Art for All’s mission is to promote the work of artists with disabilities in safe spaces, so the artists may expand their roles in surrounding communities.

“What we're trying to do is to bridge that gap of the artists with disabilities, and those art centers, with the artists without disabilities in the broader community and find that inclusion,” said project manager Nik Fernholz.

This new show features Noblet and seven other emerging artists. It’s titled “cliffs are poet(z).” The exhibit is dedicated to Cliff Poetz, an advocate for people with disabilities who died this spring.

Art for All was able to organize this new exhibit as in-person event restrictions were lifted. The artists had more pieces to show from pandemic times.

Artist Lydia Sponslier is the mother of three kids who has lived with epilepsy since she was three.

She draws on the challenges she experienced for inspiration to force the viewers to experience that part of her life.

“I want them to be uncomfortable. I want them to feel challenged. And I want them to feel out of control,” she said. “Because being sick all the time or having something wrong with you, it feels out of control.”

Sponslier is ready to have her abstract paintings displayed to the public in a place where people can appreciate them.

“I'm excited. I mean, I haven't had a show since I've had my three children,” she said with a laugh. “So it's been a long time coming and I’ve been working a lot in the studio, but I haven't been necessarily showing any of my work because I don't think there is a place for it really, that can appreciate it in the way I want it to.”

The artists and their families say the opportunity to display their art to the public is extraordinary.

Lindsey Moreland, is both an artist and an author of two books.

A portrait of Frida Kahlo hangs on a wall.
“My Inspiration Frida Kahlo” by Lindsey Moreland
Courtesy of Nik Fernholz

“My favorite thing about being an artist is sharing your artworks to the public and sharing your story of what artwork means to you,” Moreland said. “And then having this amazing opportunity to be in an art show is truly incredible. After finding out I was accepted for it, I was speechless.”

Nik Fernholz said the show offers a lot for visitors too.

“The artists themselves, the stories they bring, and being brave to tell their stories. It's not always easy,” he said. “To feel the community around us see what they're doing is very powerful.”

The exhibit runs through Aug. 28 at the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis. Many of the artists and their families say it is an honor to be included.

Once Geordy Levin’s brightly colored paintings and prints went on sale, his mom Stacey Dinner-Levin was the first in line. Geordy Levin, who has autism, prefers not to be interviewed, so his mom talked about the buying spree.

“People got mad at me and said, ‘You know, you should let other people have his.’”

Much of the art is for sale, but demand is strong.

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