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'I've never seen anything like it:' New Fleisher/Ollman show features work of artists with developmental disabilities

Philadelphia's Fleisher/Ollman Gallery chose the work of artists with developmental disabilities from local day programs for their show opening Thursday, "All Different Colors."

Jenny Cox, 54, has been participating in a day center for adults with developmental disabilities for about two decades. For most of that time, she was a full-time human paper shredder and received modest wages.

But as the Center for Creative Works (CCW) in Ardmore where Cox is a client recently re-focused on visual arts training, Cox became a painter and artist.

Now, her work will be featured in "All Different Colors," a show opening at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, which is named after one of her pieces.

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"Jenny Cox's work suggests some kind of narrative. She uses words, but everything breaks down into these colorful fragmented lozenges of color. I’ve never seen anything like it," said curator Alex Baker. "Is it an abstraction, a narrative, a chart? I don’t know, but that’s why im so interested in it."

"All Different Colors" will feature the work of artists at CCW, Oasis Art Center in Trestletown (which recently closed after losing funding) and The Creative Vision Factory in Wilmington, Delaware. CCW and Oasis are both programs of Resources for Human Development.

"These centers want to mainstream the artists that they’re working with as much as they can and give them the professional opportunities to benefit them just like any other artist," Baker said.

At CCW, formerly known as the Lower Merion Vocational Training Center, clients create and sell arts and crafts - from paintings and sculpture to T-shirts, tiles and ceramics, and can even earn cash from selling their creations.

"Teaching these guys how valuable they are is so important," said Stephanie Petro-McLellan, CCW arts and education programming supervisor. "There's multiple intelligences and different ways of learning."

The artists at CCW with work in this show had varying opinions on being in the show.

"I'm really excited!" said Paige Donovan, 22, an artist in the show who also swims in the Special Olympics. "I try my hardest."

Artist Helene Milestone, who worked closely with teacher Clifford Ward to create a Beatles-inspired yellow submarine in the new show, was jubilant about the upcoming art show.

Others did not articulate an opinion, but teachers said all the artists are proud.

“It’s the most well-known venue we’ve ever shown in,” said CCW teacher Jordan Graw. "It's always exciting, to do something creative and expressive and have somebody put it up and appreciate what they did."

 
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