By Joel Hall
About eight years ago, Stephen Shifflett was an honor student at Stockbridge High School, with a 4.0 grade point average.
He had dreams of attending Georgia Tech. That all changed when he was involved in a head-on collision with a truck, whose driver's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Shifflett, then 16, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, leaving him blind in his left eye and with a 40-percent loss of hearing.
Forced to refocus his efforts, Shifflett turned to photography.
For the last three years, Shifflett, now 23, has been entering his landscape and portrait photography in the Georgia Artists with Disabilities, Inc. Tour Exhibit. The exposure Shifflett has received from the exhibit has made his work recognizable across the state and provided him with a source of income.
"I found things in photography that I could associate with life," said Shifflett. "It's given me something that I really enjoy doing, which is really hard to find in this world."
At the Arts Clayton Gallery in Jonesboro, from now until Feb. 1, Shifflett's work, as well as the works of other talented disabled artists in the state, will be on display as part of the Georgia Artists with Disabilities, Inc. Tour Exhibit.
The tour, which started in Baxley, Ga., in September, will make its way into art galleries around the state and end in Tallulah Falls, Ga., in July.
This year's exhibit includes 46 entries from a pool of nearly 400 works that includes oil paintings, photography, watercolor sketches, and other works on canvas.
The Pilot Clubs of Georgia, a lady's civic organization, has hosted the exhibit since its inception. Pilot Club member and exhibit co-founder, Gwen Collier, said there were only 39 entries when the exhibit began, but now, some 20 years later, the event has grown.
"We wanted to do something different that no other organizations were doing," said Collier. "This has far exceeded any expectations that we had."
Tim Chapman, a representative from the Georgia Council of Arts, said he had hosted the exhibit at his art gallery in Statesboro, Ga., in the past and described it as a "great equalizer."
"This show represents inclusion to me," said Chapman. "The artists can be appreciated by the public, whether or not they have a disability."
All works at the exhibit will be on sale and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the artists. For more information, call Arts Clayton at (770) 473-5457.