A non-profit group that aims to give a platform to disabled artists opened its first-ever show in the Tri-Cities last week.
Until Sept. 20, Kickstart Disability Arts & Culture is presenting 25 pieces by 10 artists who identify themselves as living with a disability.
And among the juried work on display at the Port Moody Arts Centre (2425 St. Johns St.) are sculptures by Otto Kamensek, who was featured in The Tri-City News three years ago for his pieces depicting chronic arthritis — a disease he’s had for more than four decades.
Yuri Arajs, Kickstart’s artistic director, said his Vancouver-based organization is the only professional arts company in B.C. that directly supports disabled artists. It is funded by the SpencerCreo Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, the city of Vancouver, Vancity and BC gaming grants, among others.
Kickstart hosts two or three art exhibitions each year around Metro Vancouver — as well as performances — that focus on the talents of disabled visual artists, who receive remuneration for the group shows.
Getting cash allows them to then leverage funding from other sources, Arajs said. “Not only are they being recognized but they’re also getting paid to do it, which is key to their future success,” he told The Tri-City News last Friday, the day after the PMAC show opened. “When we pay them, it allows them to be professional.”
Arajs said his group doesn’t define disability; rather, it supports anyone living with an illness or who considers themself to have a physical or mental condition that limits movement, senses or activities.
Besides Kamensek — a Burnaby resident who was PMAC’s ceramic artist-in-residence from 2013-’15 — the show, titled Can You See Us, Port Moody? also includes paintings, drawings and prints from three handicapped artists outside of Metro Vancouver: Susan Aydan Abbott is based in Winnipeg, Emma Lau is from Ontario and Kyle Yip calls Toronto home.
In November, Kickstart will have a sister show at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver (885 West Georgia St.) called Can You See Us, Vancouver?
“There’s so much creativity out there,” Arajs said, noting last year’s Kickstart exhibit in Nanaimo gained rave reviews. “And the shows are huge markers for what they do…. My hope is that the response in Port Moody will also be positive because we’re presenting quality work to the public.”
• A Kickstart artist talk with Otto Kamensek, Sandra Yuen Mackay (a Courage to Come Back recipient) and Ben Roback is on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Port Moody Arts Centre. Curator Yuri Arajs will lead the discussion. Visit pomoarts.ca or kickstartdisability.ca.
A Vancouver non-profit society, Kickstart was founded in 1998 with a mandate to support and promote artists with disabilities. It aims to present professional work by artists with disabilities to audiences — raising public awareness of their contribution to the arts, and paying the artists.
ALSO AT PMAC
• In the Suncor Gallery is Gary Wyatt’s landscape drawings. The Burnaby artist is also the co-owner of the Spirit Wrestler Gallery, an author and curator of Indigenous artwork.
• In the Ann Kitching Gallery, painter Mart Chojnacka and her father, wood sculptor Zbigniew Chojnacki, show their surrealistic artworks.