Project Onward offers workspace for artists with disabilities

April 26, 2014

Located in Chicago's Bridgeport Art Center, Project Onward offers artists with developmental disabilities or mental illness workspace and areas to showcase their pieces. The organization is a spinoff of Gallery 37.

"We're very selective with our participations in Project Onward," said Rob Lentz, executive director of Project Onward. "There's a submission process where we look at the artist's portfolio and determine the level of commitment, skill and where the artist is in their career."

"We don't provide instruction as part of the program," Lentz said. "We're really interested in providing support to artists who already have a style and vision and already have a feel for what they want to do."

"All of the artists' work is for sale.

"We split all of our artwork sales 50/50, just like a regular gallery, so many of our artists are very popular and have an avid following," Lentz said.

"They have a number of exhibitions, such as "Smile with your mind: Autobiographies of autism."

"This is Autism Awareness month, and every year we try to do a special show that focuses on the artists that we work with that are on the Autism spectrum," Lentz said.

"Jacqueline Cousins' drawings are part of the exhibit.

"I like to draw, I like to draw wrestling and mostly people on TV," Cousins said. "These women on TV are the women I see on a reality TV show."

"Cousins has been drawing for 28 years.

"I went to Illinois Institute of Art," Cousins said. "I have a degree in arts, my major is media arts with animation."

"Stephen Doby, 24, also has work is also on display.

"I was painting since I was young," Doby said.

"Some of our artists have shown in London, Paris and the Netherlands," Lentz said. "We have fans all over the world. Chicago is definitely our home, but we try and spread the word as wide as possible."

"Smile with your mind: Autobiographies of autism" will be shown at Project Onward until mid-May.

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