Art Ability is dedicated to creating community awareness of people with disabilities, and encouraging people with disabilities to reach beyond their limitations and find fulfillment and inspiration through art.
Art Ability: past and present
Art Ability offers a unique and accessible venue for artists with disabilities to display and sell their work. In addition to supporting Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s vision and mission to advocate for those with disabilities in our community while advancing the artistic and financial success of artists with disabilities, the art in the exhibition is used daily to motivate and treat patients at the Hospital.
Art Ability began at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in 1996 as an eight-week exhibit and sale of work by artists with disabilities. Now, in addition to the annual exhibitions, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital is an actively collecting institution whose permanent collection of over 300 objects is on display throughout the year serving as a showcase for, and celebration of, artists with disabilities.
At its inception, the annual exhibition and sale included approximately 40 participating artists and 200 pieces of artwork displayed. The most recent exhibitions featured more than 400 pieces of art, sculpture and jewelry by 200 artists representing 30 states and eight countries.
Art Ability includes the following major components: a twelve-week annual, international juried exhibition and sale of art and fine crafts produced by individuals with disabilities held each fall; community outreach and education opportunities including satellite exhibitions and interactive demo days; our permanent collection of artwork and the incorporation of artwork into the patient experience; and a corporate art acquisition program.
In recognition of its efforts, Art Ability was a recipient of a 2009 Inglis Award for Continuing Excellence from the Inglis Foundation. This award honors the performance of non-profit organizations in the Philadelphia region that enhance the quality of life for people with physical disabilities. In 2000, Art Ability was named a Keystone of Accessibility by Governor Tom Ridge and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, one of only 12 arts organizations so honored.
Artists receive 80 percent of proceeds from the sale of their pieces, with 20 percent earmarked to support the Hospital’s nationally-recognized patient treatment programs.
Annual exhibition and sale
Art Ability has as a primary focus as an international, twelve-week juried exhibition and sale of art and fine crafts that features work by artists with physical and related cognitive disabilities, and hearing and visual impairments. Participating artists express their creativity through painting, photography, sculpture, fiber arts, stained glass, jewelry and fine crafts. Through these creative modes of expression, artists are able to convey their talent, receive recognition for their work, and often also to further progress in recovering from a life-altering illness or injury.
The event is held every fall. Proceeds of the Art Ability Preview party help support Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital patient and community programs.
Permanent collection of work
Pieces from the hospital’s permanent Art Ability collection (300+ pieces) are displayed at wheelchair height throughout the halls of the hospital year-round for our more than 7,000 patients to enjoy. The collection provides continuous inspiration to the hospital’s patients, their families and visitors. The hospital clinical staff members often incorporate utilization of Art Ability work into their daily treatment activities with patients. Staff motivates patients by using the collection as tangible evidence of their potential to return to meaningful, productive lives.
Private tours are available upon request.
Online sales gallery
Art Ability is now able to offer the opportunity to view works for sale from our consignment inventory. Each year, with the permission of the artist, Art Ability retains a number of works from our annual exhibition to allow for more exposure for our artists and their talents.
Community outreach and education opportunities
Traveling satellite exhibitions of Art Ability artwork are a key component of the program and have been successful in generating enhanced awareness of the talent and skill of our artists; in addition to communicating that disability is as personally limiting as you make it. Over the past 17 years, Art Ability artwork has been on display at numerous high profile venues including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia’s Independence Starts Here! “Art in the City” project at City Hall and at the Philadelphia Airport. We have also displayed work at many small, local venues such as the West Chester and Malvern Gallery Walks, the Shipley School and the Newtown Square Public Library.
Interactive demo days
During demo days, participating Art Ability artists share the knowledge of their craft with people of all ages with disabilities. These half-day programs include interactive tours of the exhibition or permanent collection and involve Art Ability artists who share the practice of their craft and their disabilities. Each artist then works in a small group and every participant creates a piece of work under the artist’s guidance.
Corporate art acquisition program
Art Ability also serves as a resource for corporations to help meet their need for art for their corporate art collections. Original works of art by artists with disabilities are now hanging in the offices of the Bryn Mawr Hospital Health Center, Comcast Corporation, Deloitte & Touche, Shannondell at Valley Forge, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Kirby Bates Associates, and Bryn Mawr Hospital. We thank our corporate partners for their visible support of empowering artists with disabilities and supporting Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.