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Exhibit Shows Physical Handicap is No Barrier to Creative Spirit


The exhibition demonstrated how art can inspire the disabled or those living with pain to lead more creative lives

The exhibition demonstrated how art can inspire the disabled or those living with pain to lead more creative lives

Artists who go from pain and despair to hope and creativity

A gallery in Washington, D.C. recently held an exhibition to show the role art can play in inspiring the disabled or those living with pain to lead more creative lives.

No Dream beyond Reach was much more than an art exhibit; it demonstrated how creativity and hope are possible in even the most difficult circumstances. The show featured the digital artwork of a disabled artist and what is described as wheel art technology that helps people defy physical handicaps.

Shanti Norris is the co-founder of the Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, D.C., where the exhibition was held. "Just because we have limitations, which in a way we all do in one form or another, just because we have limitations doesn't mean we can't express ourselves in a profoundly beautiful way," she said.

The art on display is the creation of Andrew Reach. He had a successful career as an architect until spinal disease made it impossible for him to work in his field. But the disease did not take away his desire to create. He went from building airports and museums to creating computer-generated prints. Because of his condition - he is in constant pain - Reach cannot give interviews, but on his Web site he talks about his journey from pain and despair to hope and creativity.

"There are so many people that have so many challenges. I am just one of the millions of people that deal with it and do it every day. My hope is that, by sharing my art, it will educate more and more people on how art can nourish the soul, the mind and the body to a place of wellness," Reach said.

Reach creates his digital prints on his computer, and most of them are done while he is lying in his bed - the position where he is in the least pain.

Lauren Nelson is a gallery visitor. "I think it's amazing for someone to take what could be considered debilitating and devastating and turn it into something positive," she said. "[It] is amazing, and I give him a lot of credit for doing that."

Also on display at the center was an interactive system that transforms any wheelchair into a vehicle for self-expression and art-making. The technology was created by Young Chung, a New York-based Korean engineer. His work with disabled teenagers inspired him to create the wheelchair art technology.

"A lot of times, pain or suffering and disability of any sort is very isolating and people sort of get locked in that loneliness and feel disconnected from the world. In terms of healing that is no way to address pain and move forward," Brooke Sidelmann, gallery director said. "Art allows these people an avenue where they can still be themselves and where they can forget about pain and limitation and in doing so they empower themselves and directly their immune system becomes much stronger."

The No Dream Beyond Reach exhibit is a testimony to the power of art to inspire those who create it, as well as those who enjoy it.

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