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Disabled artists' works at Georgian Gallery this weekend

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

When WORKTEC, a Clayton County-based work training and employment center for the mentally and physically disabled, approached Georgian Gallery owner, Keith Sweat, with the idea of hosting an art exhibit done entirely by disabled artists, he was originally skeptical.

"At first, I was looking at this and saying, 'Yeah, we could do a fundraiser,'" Sweat said. "They told me that I would be blown away and I don't know how many times I have heard that."

After further examination, however, Sweat said he was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the canvasses and images he saw.

"I was really surprised that I would embrace it as aggressively as I did," he said. "The fact that all the artists have mental disabilities is quite different for us, but the artwork is extremely beautiful. I'm very surprised by the caliber of the art."

Sweat was so impressed that he teamed up with WORKTEC's Mental Health and Arts Committee to present, "Evening in the Neighborhood," an art exhibit that will feature the work of seven or eight artists, all clients of Worktec, living with some kind of disability.

The exhibit will open with a reception on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 6-9 p.m., at the Georgian Gallery, located at 1928 Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge. The exhibit, which will run until Nov. 3, was scheduled in October to coincide with WORKTEC's 30th anniversary celebration, as well as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The artists range in age from 17 to 70 years old, and the mediums used include acrylics, water colors, oil, charcoal and pencil. Each artist will display between 3 and 5 pieces.

Debbie Walker, specialist manager with WORKTEC's mental health division, said she is not surprised by the high quality of the work being displayed. Several of the artists currently participate in art therapy classes at the Clayton Day Treatment Center, and five of them won awards at the 2007 Georgia Artists with Disabilities Show and Competition in September. David Hawkins, who won "Best in Show" at the statewide competition, is one of the artists who will be featured.

"Many of our artists have been to art therapy classes and this is an extension of their recovery," said Walker. "It helps them feel accepted among their artistic peers. This will really help them with their confidence, and get their art into other venues."

WORKTEC executive director, Dorothy Cochran, said WORKTEC regularly buys and displays the artwork of its clients, and that this was only the second exhibition the organization had sponsored. The first was done with Arts Clayton five years ago.

"We have a lot of individuals who have talents in this area and who haven't gotten to participate in many shows," said Cochran. "We're just extremely pleased that we can team with the gallery ... to exhibit our artists' work in this kind of setting."

For more information about the exhibit, call the Georgian Gallery at (770) 506-3949 or WORKTEC at (770) 472-7675.