Miami art therapy program’s Rise Up Gallery exhibits works of disabled artists

David McCauley, who founded the nonprofit Rise Up To Cure Paralysis after he recuperated from a broken neck, works on a mosaic with repurposed skateboard parts.
David McCauley, who founded the nonprofit Rise Up To Cure Paralysis after he recuperated from a broken neck, works on a mosaic with repurposed skateboard parts.

At a friend’s birthday party in summer 2008, David McCauley dove into a pool, hit his head on the bottom and broke his neck.

McCauley was in an intensive care unit for two-and-a-half weeks and spent four months in rehabilitation. At 39, he remains impaired in all four limbs, has limited mobility of his arms and cannot move his hands.

During rehab, McCauley was introduced to art therapy.

“So much emphasis is placed on physical rehabilitation, which is often a grueling regiment,” McCauley said. “You are literally training like an Olympic athlete. Art therapy provides an escape from that routine.”

McCauley said art therapy has given him a balance between the physical and mental recovery and led him to start an organization that helped others going through similar situations.

In 2010, he established a nonprofit organization in New Jersey called Rise Up To Cure Paralysis to improve the quality of life of people living with paralysis. Two years later, he headquartered the organization’s first flagship program in Miami Beach, Rise Up Gallery, which focuses on pop-up exhibits for disabled artists.

The program offers art therapy workshops at Jackson Memorial Hospital for newly injured patients suffering from ailments including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis.

“I wanted to offer these positive and creative workshops to people going through a challenging recovery process,” McCauley said.

Rise Up To Cure Paralysis’s latest program in Miami is the Laundromat Art Space.

This art space was branded by nine artists, including McCauley, who come from the ArtCenter/South Florida, Bakehouse Art Complex and the Wynwood area.

This space is dedicated to local and emerging artists and based in Little Haiti.

The opening will be 7 p.m. Friday at 5900 NE Second Ave. The event is free and open to everyone.

McCauley and a few artists came up with the idea for the Laundromat. He found a developer who showed them a building that used to be a laundromat. That’s how the space got its name.

Jean-Paul Mallozzi, a previous ArtCenter artist and current Laundromat artist, said they did not want to destroy what was already there but hoped to add to it and let the community grow organically.

“There is a soul there, a community that has been there. You should not take that away,” Mallozzi said. “Work with what you have. Respect the surrounding. You do not want to erase the history.”

McCauley hopes to bring something new to Little Haiti and allow artists to have more use and control of the space.

German-born Bianca Pratorius, 46, another ex-ArtCenter artist, is one of them. She likes working with paper as well as sculpture installations and collages.

“We talked about how we always wanted a space that was artist-run,” Pratorius said. “We wanted to function as a studio space for artists and a gallery.”

McCauley said the Laundromat is intended to serve the entire art community.

It will host art workshops, bring in curators and muralists, while also collaborating with organizations, such as Arts for Learning, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing teaching and learning for children through the arts and the community.

“[The Laundromat] will be a place for people to come and expose themselves for the community,” said Michael Williams, 29, an artist who works with watercolors and whose pieces work in series. “It will bring more people into the neighborhood and help that neighborhood grow.”

McCauley chose this area because he wanted a neighborhood that had a rich, cultural atmosphere with its Caribbean influence.

“You get to see artists in their natural habitat,” McCauley said. “The events [at the Laundromat] will add to what the community already offers.”

If you go

▪ What: Laundromat Art Space opening.

▪ Where: 5900 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137.

▪ When: Friday, July 17, 2015.

▪ Cost: Admission is free.

▪ For more information, check out its Facebook page at facebook.com/laundromatartspace.