Health & Fitness

Transforming the lives of disabled artists

David McCauley, a mixed-media artist and the founder of Rise Up Gallery, smooths the edge of one of his new artworks at ArtCenter / South Florida in Miami Beach.  Rise Up Gallery is a nonprofit organization that provides free art therapy workshops to the community and a venue in which emerging artists can exhibit their work. McCauley sustained a spinal cord injury in 2008 while diving; he is among nearly 35 resident artists at ArtCenter in South Beach. He also partners with Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital to provide free art therapy workshops to inpatients and outpatients who have spinal cord injuries.
David McCauley, a mixed-media artist and the founder of Rise Up Gallery, smooths the edge of one of his new artworks at ArtCenter / South Florida in Miami Beach. Rise Up Gallery is a nonprofit organization that provides free art therapy workshops to the community and a venue in which emerging artists can exhibit their work. McCauley sustained a spinal cord injury in 2008 while diving; he is among nearly 35 resident artists at ArtCenter in South Beach. He also partners with Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital to provide free art therapy workshops to inpatients and outpatients who have spinal cord injuries. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

When Harvard graduate Liz Powers received a grant for social work, she decided to help homeless or disabled artists by sharing their artwork with the Boston community.

When Powers realized there wasn’t a professional marketplace to sell their works, she organized an annual art show. Customers, however, wanted more than a yearly show, leading Powers and her brother, Spencer, to develop ArtLifting.com, an online marketplace devoted to selling artworks created by homeless or disabled artists.

ArtLifting, a project incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab, selects artists from nonprofits and homeless shelters across the country; it curates their art to highlight the top pieces from each artist.

“They teach people that anything can be accomplished with a combination of hard work and surrounding yourself with a caring, supportive community,” Liz said.

“I am very excited to help the artists achieve their dreams,” added her brother. “When we tell an artist that someone bought their print, especially someone from outside their town, it’s a world-changing experience. It gives customers the power to change lives.”

Upon finding an Instagram tag #ArtTherapy, Spencer contacted David McCauley of Rise Up Gallery in Wynwood, who simultaneously contacted Spencer upon seeing his Instagram page for ArtLifting. The serendipitous moment made the perfect partnership.

McCauley found it hard to manage the business aspects of the gallery while creating his own works and leading art therapy workshops. ArtLifting, meanwhile, wanted to expand and help more artists. The partnership allowed McCauley to focus on his artwork and teaching while ArtLifting’s expansion into Miami showed the Powers that their dream of a global community can become a reality. They’ve recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand.

McCauley, an artist who broke his C6 vertebrae in a diving accident, moved from New Jersey to Miami to establish Rise Up Gallery, a branch of the nonprofit foundation he created in New Jersey after his accident. The pop-up gallery exhibits quarterly at various locations. McCauley also conducts free art therapy workshops at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital the first Friday of the month; the art is then featured in the hospital. McCauley feels that the workshops bring “lots of smiles” and a “positive healing environment” for those who have recently faced a life-changing ordeal.

“Able-bodied volunteers come into workshops and I feel them taking away a great deal as a result of participating,” McCauley said. “Being involved and seeing the smile that it brings to faces, or seeing folks from different walks of life working together on common goals is quite a beautiful thing.”

ArtLifting now features three Florida artists on its website: David McCauley, Laurie Kammer and Elizabeth D’Angelo. D’Angelo was a professional artist and teacher before becoming severely ill four years ago, leaving her paralyzed.

About her painting, she says on the website: “I disappear into it. It frees me to simply be.”

Kammer, an artist with T-10 spinal cord injuries, established a new path of stability through painting. In McCauley’s art therapy workshop, Kammer teamed with a paralyzed man who could only use his mouth to hold a paintbrush. He would paint one stroke and then she would paint one on the same canvas: They had an “art conversation,” she said.

Because of ArtLifting, Kammer has derived an extra income and perhaps more importantly, confidence to continue in her artwork and in her life.

“I felt like when I stopped creating in my life, my life actually stopped too,” Kammer said. “When people have nothing left, sometimes art is what lifts them out of the dark.”

If you go

David McCauley teaches free art therapy classes from 2 to 4 p.m. on the first Friday of the month at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital, 1611 NW 12th Ave. He brings all the supplies. For information, contact 305-585-6738.

Artlifting.com is the website where art is sold

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