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What you need to know for 07/26/2017

Where capabilities trump disabilities

Where capabilities trump disabilities

Bill Freeman of Schodack is a capable man.

Bill Freeman of Schodack is a capable man.

He picked up a maraca and performed with rock band “BrainWaves” at the Schenectady Jewish Community Center in Niskayuna on Sunday afternoon. Then he showed off his painting of baseball great Hank Aaron.

“I like baseball, soccer, ice hockey, basketball and football,” said the affable Freeman, 32, who is developmentally disabled.

Freeman and others were in the limelight at the JCC’s Capital Capabilities event, which celebrated artistic accomplishments of disabled men and women. Mark Weintraub, the community center’s executive director, said planning for the program started last year when a task force made up of several agencies met for the first time.

“Our goal is to enlighten and educate the able community about people with disabilities,” Weintraub said. “The idea is to learn and interact with people who have disabilities on a different level through art, so there’s art in various forms. There’s painted art under the theme of sports and popular culture, so most of the things you’ll see are vivid colors or sports. That’s what we requested.”


About 200 people visited the show, which brought together agencies such as Living Resources in Albany, the Schenectady ARC, Sunnyview Rehabilitation in Schenectady and the Alternative Living Group in Albany. Freeman was glad that people liked his artwork. “I’m so happy,” he said.

Others were happy to take a look at the art pieces, which included a replica of Yankee Stadium created by artists at Living Resources. The baseball fans used colored felt, cardboard and hundreds of baseball cards to put together the famous baseball palace in the Bronx.

A 78-foot, multi-panel scroll — paintings designed by various agencies — told the story about a young man with a disability and his joy at independence. Dennis Pullen, a 34-year Oswego man paralyzed in a childhood traffic accident, demonstrated how he paints by mouth.

“I don’t let my disability get in my way,” Pullen told his audience, as he recounted life experiences. “I especially don’t let people stop me, either.”

Weintraub wanted people to talk to artists at the show — Freeman was glad to talk about his version of baseball’s Aaron.

“He may have a disability, but you’re communicating with him as an artist and you’re talking about his art,” Weintraub said. “That’s what I was looking to achieve in this, that we have people from the community coming and interacting on a specific point.”

Anne Murphy, artistic director for Living Resources, said her friends were enthusiastic about the Yankee Stadium project, which was completed in 2012.

“They just got into it, they loved the idea about making a statement about baseball,” Murphy said. “Everybody just jumped into it. I had four different classes, four different teachers. They all took a piece of it and this came out of it.”

Most of the artwork was on center walls.

Anthony DiGiovannantonio of the Schenectady Community Support Center offered his pastel yacht fishing on calm waters. Karen Norton, another support center artist, interpreted “Blazing Angels” in bold reds and greens. People in bathtubs and New York Yankee Derek Jeter were other subjects.

A talent showcase

“It shows people with varying abilities can get an opportunity to showcase their talents, their talents are very vast here,” said Maxine George, executive director of the Alternative Living Group. “What we need is for the community to know the talent exists and hopefully to open up their hearts and their supports and their minds to having these individuals explore their life choices.”

George also said the agencies participating in Capital Capabilities helped by showing what services they offer. “That’s true empowerment for families,” she said.

Another program is already in the planning stages.

“What this event did, for the first time ever, it brought all of our agencies under one roof — all the art programs we have in the community have always been separate,” said Mark C. Sheehan, director of new initiatives for Schenectady ARC. “This event brought us all into one facility so we could display all our art to the community at once, and that was a blessing ... this is a landmark event for us.”

Alison Vanevera, 56, of Schenectady, with Alternative Living Group, showed off the cocoon, caterpillar and butterfly in her multi-colored “A New Life” painting.

“It shows what people with disabilities can do,” she said, smiling. “They don’t have to be isolated.”

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