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Art Unblocked exhibit aims to amplify the voices of disabled artists in NC

Pieces from the Art Unblocked 2021 exhibition hang on the walls of the Block Gallery in the Raleigh Municipal Building on Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2021. The exhibition feautures works of art created by emerging and established artists with disabilities.

The Block Gallery in Raleigh will be promoting disabled artists and their work in the Art Unblocked Exhibit, which will be on display until May 14.

Art Unblocked is organized by Arts Access, which programs manager Megan Bostic says is a small nonprofit organization in North Carolina that works to make the arts more accessible to disabled artists or others interested in becoming involved in the arts. 

“We're not giving them a voice, they have a voice,” Bostic said. “We’re just trying to make more space for artists with disabilities.”

Last year, Arts Access partnered with the Block Gallery to find North Carolina artists who identified as having a disability for the inaugural Art Unblocked exhibition. When the pandemic struck, the 2020 exhibit was pushed to be available online only.

This year, 14 artists – ranging from emerging to established – are showing their work in person, while four more artists are showing their work virtually.

“It’s an evolving exhibition idea,” Bostic said. “The Block Gallery at Raleigh Arts has been a great partner who gives us the space and a stipend to curate the exhibit.”

Bostic said Art Unblocked is a fully accessible exhibit – admission is free, there is accessible parking and each piece is accompanied by a written and audio description. Anyone who would like a personalized audio description can email Bostic directly. 

One of the 14 featured artists is Gillian Fink, a painter from Chapel Hill. Her creative process starts with searching for images that inspire her – ranging from fairies and Chinese dragons to skylines and aquariums. She depicts the images in detail with acrylic paint markers.

Fink is a prolific artist and said she dedicates time to creative endeavors every day – not just painting, but sewing costumes as well.

“I’ve done quite a bit,” Fink said. “But sometimes I take a break between paintings to work on other projects.”

Fink has three paintings showing in the exhibit, each fitting into her characteristic style defined by dark lines and bright colors. She said her favorite one being shown is “Desert View,” which depicts day and night in the desert.

“I love deserts,” Fink said. “I love to see them and the animals that live there during the night and during the day.”

Fink will be discussing her work in a virtual artist talk on April 20 at 7 p.m., where ASL and audio description will be provided. 

Another artist that will present is Kathryn DeMarco, whose medium of choice is collage. DeMarco said she began using this medium in college when she was taking drawing classes.

“I started to draw with paper,” DeMarco said. “I like the way you can fix things with collage and you can add interesting little details that can hide in there.”

DeMarco focuses mainly on self-portraits and animal portraits, and even does commissions of people’s pets. She likes to incorporate details that resonate with viewers, such as words, pieces of journal pages or family photos.

One of her works that is featured in Art Unblocked is a portrait of her kitten – and in the background, you can see some of her past artwork that she cut up and added to the collage.

DeMarco was recruited to be a part of the exhibit after showing work about her Type 1 diabetes at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, and said she has enjoyed working with Arts Access.

“We all have different issues that we have to deal with, and I think that’s what Arts Access is about: making everything accessible, and realizing that we all come from a different point with our health and our lives,” DeMarco said.

People who wish to view the exhibition in person can visit the gallery in Raleigh’s Municipal Building between Monday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m, or the artwork can be viewed online. All visitors must adhere to COVID-19 guidelines including masking, social distancing and completing a basic wellness check.


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