BALTIMORE– Last year, when Crystal Wagner submitted a painting of a sunflower to an art gallery show, she was not expecting to be commissioned to paint a second copy for an eager customer — but she happily agreed.
Wagner is a 30-year-old participant in the Arc of Baltimore day program in Dundalk, and has developmental disabilities. Contributing to Art in the Round, an annual art show sponsored by the Arc, makes her feel “really happy and thrilled.”
Art in the Round has been a collaborative effort since its conception in 2001, when a number of staff members wanted to celebrate the creativity of individuals supported by the Arc, said Sly Bieler, director of day services for the Arc of Baltimore.
The event features an exhibit and silent auction in which some of the art is “absolutely amazing” and “museum quality,” Bieler said.
The ninth annual Art in The Round gallery show, to which the last of 300 tickets sold out on Tuesday, will be held at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore Friday night.
“We find that art is a common denominator that unites people,” Bieler said. “Individuals who make the art view themselves as artists, not as disabled. It’s a huge self esteem building activity.”
The gallery will feature 67 of the record high 230 submitted pieces from artists of the Arc and other agencies that assist people with disabilities, Bieler said.
“It’s pretty competitive,” Bieler said.
Following the guidelines of other art auctions, the artist receives 60 percent of the proceeds with the other 40 percent going toward art supplies, said Libby Bryant, purchasing agent for the Arc of Baltimore. Depending on the piece, the selling price of art generally ranges between $40 and $200.
“Sometimes there are bidding wars, other times, people are less interested, but everything gets sold,” Bryant said.
Last year, when Wagner’s sunflower painting was chosen to be used for this year’s promotional flier, she was excited about “winning number one piece.”
“My family was really happy and thrilled,” Wagner said. “Make me feel good in my heart.”
The value of the program is that in allowing artists to conceive and develop their own ideas, self worth increases, said Sandy Shifflett, manager of day services for the Arc of Baltimore.
“It’s so great to see that they’re able to make choices and are able to express themselves,” Shifflett said.
And when Shifflett said that the Art in the Round is a medium to bridge the gap between Arc participants and the general public, the four contributing artists sitting around her cheerfully agreed.
“We are no different than everyone else,” Shifflett said as she turned to address the table of artists.
“Do you have as much talent as other artists?”
Nods of affirmation and exclamatory “yeses” followed.
“Does it make you feel good inside?”
Subsequent smiles and giggles seemed affirmation enough.