‘Awesome’ anniversary

From left, Linda Moore, executive director of the Morris Museum; Congressman Leonard Lance; and Morris Museum trustee Gerri Horn.

“This was really awesome!” That comment by Heather Kosinski, a young woman from Kenilworth, NJ, was typical of the reaction to Full Circle 2013: Reflections, the 20th anniversary celebration of Matheny’s Arts Access Program. U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ 07), honorary chair of the event, described the artwork on display as “truly magnificent,” adding his “congratulations to all of the artists and all of those who made this event possible.”

“We provide the creative freedom for the artists to express themselves,” explained Eileen Murray, director of the Arts Access Program, “but it is the artists who bring this work to life. The art you see today is a true reflection of 20 years of hundreds of individuals who have created thousands of personal reflections.”

The true stars of the afternoon were the artists and their art, of course, whether it was visual art such as “Flower Power,” an acrylic on canvas by Jess Evans, or Rasheedah Mahali’s moving tribute to the late artist Jason Christie or “Alone,” a dance piece choreographed and performed by Natalia Manning. More than 70 pieces of visual art, curated by former Arts Access facilitator Scott Beil, were on display in the gallery, and 14 performances of dance, drama, prose and poetry were presented in a multi-media stage presentation, which also visually traced the development of Arts Access from its beginnings in 1993 to today. Steve Proctor, Matheny president, paid tribute to former medical director Dr. Gabor Barabas and former president Robert Schonhorn, who founded the program after asking the question: “Can people with disabilities create fine art?”

Arts Access received a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Full Circle celebration, and the program also recently received an Excellence in the Arts award from the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the Friends of Somerset County Culture & Heritage, Inc. Major sponsors of Full Circle were: Gold, Day Pitney LLP and The Providence Bank Foundation; Silver, The Hartford; and Bronze, Affinity Federal Credit Union, The Angeletti Group, Financial Resources Federal Credit Union and ShopRite of Hunterdon County. Food sponsors were: Café Azzurro and cocoLuxe fine pastries, Peapack; Gladstone Tavern, Gladstone; 3 West and Urban Table, Basking Ridge; and Village Office Supply, Somerset.

Visual art curator Scott Beil and his wife Erin in front of an untitled acrylic on canvas by Chris Butler.

Honorary chair

Congressman Leonard Lance, visiting with Arts Access artist Luis Rodriguez.

U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance, whose district includes Peapack-Gladstone, will be the Honorary Chair for Full Circle 2013: Reflections, the 20th anniversary celebration of Matheny’s Arts Access Program, to be held November 2 in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center. Lance, who visited Matheny this past January, is co-chairman of the Congressional Arts Caucus. He has been a member of the New Jersey Council on the Humanities and a trustee of the Newark Museum and McCarter Theatre in Princeton.

Arts Access enables people with disabilities to create fine art assisted by professional artist-facilitators. Many of the Arts Access artists cannot speak and do not have control of their hands and arms. But their minds are intact, and they use unique methods that allow them to overcome their disabilities and express themselves in multiple artistic disciplines. The program was created in 1993 by the late Robert Schonhorn, former president of Matheny, and Dr. Gabor Barabas, former medical director.

Recently, Arts Access received a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the 20th anniversary Full Circle celebratory event. It will include an exhibition displaying original artwork created by artists with disabilities and will feature guest artists who will help participants with disabilities create a culminating multimedia performance piece.