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Gallery showcases work of artists with disabilities

Photo by Curt Yeomans
McDonough-based artist, Karen Casciani (from left), talks to Jonesboro residents, Penny Johnson and Betsy Wester, about a painting she made for the traveling Artists with Disabilities exhibit, currently on display at the Arts Clayton Gallery.

Photo by Curt Yeomans McDonough-based artist, Karen Casciani (from left), talks to Jonesboro residents, Penny Johnson and Betsy Wester, about a painting she made for the traveling Artists with Disabilities exhibit, currently on display at the Arts Clayton Gallery.

Painting is a way for Karen Casciani to escape some of her health-related issues.

The McDonough-based artist has arthritis, neurological issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immune disorder. But she also is a painter, and her work has regularly been featured in various exhibits at the Arts Clayton Gallery, in Jonesboro.

It is when she is creating her artwork, she said, that the pain from her medical conditions — specifically her arthritis — goes away, because she has something else to occupy her mind.

“It helps a lot,” Casciani said. “Something that my neurologist told me is that when you’re creating art, you’re using the same part of your brain that causes you to feel pain. So, when you’re creating art, you can’t feel pain. You can’t do both at the same time, and I find that to be true.”

Casciani is one of several artists with disabilities whose work is currently on display at the Arts Clayton Gallery, as part of a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Pilot Clubs of Georgia. The gallery opened its showing of the exhibit with a reception Friday night.

The traveling exhibit is made up entirely of work created by artists whose disabilities range from less visible issues, such as arthritis, to more profound issues, such as mental disabilities, or confinement to a wheelchair. This is the 27th year that the exhibit, made up of new artwork each year, has traveled across Georgia.

“It is an outreach program for the artists, to help them come out of depression, and to help them know they can create something, and that they can make a donation to society [through art],” said Georgia Artists With Disabilities Past President Angela Brown Gillis, who attended the opening reception.

She said more than 300 pieces of art were submitted by artists from around the state, and it was whittled down to approximately 100 pieces for the exhibit through an arts competition. The pieces range in style from three-dimensional artwork, to quilted artwork, to paintings, to photographs.

“They have many, many talented artists, and I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones in the group, because you couldn’t tell I was disabled, but a lot them, you can,” Casciani said. “We have blind photographers, people in wheelchairs, people with mental disabilities, and a lot of different things, and they make beautiful things.”

Casciani, who has two paintings in the exhibit, is one of six artists from the Southern Crescent who have pieces in the exhibit. The other artists, she said, include Stockbridge resident, Stephen Shifflet, Jonesboro residents, Amy Allen Lockett and David Hawkins, Fayetteville resident, Don Kaye, and Fairburn resident, Forest Ridenhour.

Arts Clayton Gallery patron, Betsy Wester, said her favorite piece is a mixed-media item, by Cartersville-based artist Marlis Cornett. The piece included piano keys, pieces of wood meant to resemble the hammers inside a piano, and a torn-up piece of sheet music.

“I especially like the piano keys and the things that are supposed to tap the inside of the piano,” said Wester, as she perused the exhibit with fellow Jonesboro resident, Penny Johnson. “It’s very interesting ... It’s all amazing. All of it is beautiful.”

Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said the local arts group has “long had a partnership” with the Pilots Clubs in Georgia, even hosting its artists with disabilities traveling exhibit every other year.

“This is a wonderful community service,” said Summerlin. “Arts Clayton has had a great relationship with Artists with Disabilities for years, and we really honor that.”

The exhibit will only be on display at the gallery, located at 136 South Main Street, in Jonesboro, through the end of this month.