Group of artists in JoCo overcome disability

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – A sea of artwork is on display at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.

The 2nd annual Emerging Artists Holiday Art Sale kicked off Wednesday featuring artwork created by 10 different artists.

The artists are part of the Johnson County Developmental Supports Emerging Artists Program.

The program exists to develop the skills of emerging artists so that they may reach their full potential and receive income through the sale of their art.

The program has been part of JCDS for six years. It also provides an opportunity for people to build meaningful relationships with professional artists in settings that are typical for those who are part of the local art community.

“They’re seen as artists first instead of people with disabilities,” said Cary Odell, Emerging Artists program coordinator.

The Emerging Artists are in varying stages of their artistic development. Through their work, the artists are growing in areas of self-expression, communication and self-esteem. Creating art has also provided an opportunity to earn money in an industry that is not typically an option for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The Holiday Art Sale also features Papercrete Works, a program created by JCDS employees and clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Papercrete is a mixture of cement, water and recycled paper. The crew of clients and staff work together to pour it into molds to create products for sale such as picture frames, planters and decorative bowls.

JCDS clients who participate in the program earn an hourly wage for mixing and pouring the papercrete, shredding newspaper to go into the mixture, finishing the products and working at art shows and events where the product is sold. Proceeds from the sales go back into the program.

“We are teaching those skills so that we can get everyone out into the community working competitively,” said Micha Wickstrom, Papercrete Works coordinator.

The Emerging Artists Holiday Art Sale is from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center located at 8788 Metcalf Ave.