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Nonprofit Able ARTS Work spotlights artists with disabilities

Grunion Gazette - 5/31/2024

May 30—Able ARTS Work, a Long Beach-based nonprofit, has provided creative arts services and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to grow and share their artistic talents for the past four decades.

The organization creates opportunities aimed at getting the entire community engaged with the arts — not only in Long Beach, but across the Southern California region.

Long Beach resident Helen Dolas founded Able ARTS Work in 1982 to support a community that had historically been excluded from many educational, living, leisure and vocational opportunities — people with developmental disabilities.

The organization, since then, has worked to provide an inclusive space for folks with developmental and physical disabilities to participate in the arts through creative education, music, dance, theater, visual arts, media and digital arts.

Dolas' guiding philosophy for the organization is "love before learning," according to the organization's website, which ensures that every person is welcomed and cherished as an individual — is given every day opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, and joy.

Aside from bringing arts programming to people with disabilities, Able ARTS Work has also expanded to provide opportunities for other marginalized and underserved communities including at-risk youth, children in school settings, and art enthusiasts throughout Southern California.

"Able Arts Work is a very dynamic organization," said Kristy Glass, director of community advancement programs. "There's always something exciting taking place, whether it's an exhibit or a special project joining on at one of our day programs."

The nonprofit's day programs — which serve about 150 adult clients daily — provide creative studio settings and facilities for adults with disabilities in music, drama, fine arts, mural painting, video production, photography, fiber arts, printmaking and more.

Music and art therapy services are also provided as part of the programs. Able ARTS Works' day programs are available on a part-time and full-time basis in Long Beach, Hawthorne, San Diego, and online.

Other programs that Able ARTS Work offers include:

* A health and wellness clinic which provides private art and music therapy sessions and more,

* Accessible arts workshops in community settings and in schools,

* A mobile arts program

* A home-based program which provides one-on-one creative arts therapy services to individuals with disabilities who cannot attend a day program due to physical limitations and/or seeking specific adaptive skills training.

The organization also supports a student-led podcast, called ArtBeat Radio. It's released weekly and can be found on all podcast services.

"The content creation, editing, and all of the technical stuff is done by our students," Glass, who has worked with the nonprofit for 17 years, said. "And (in) our new building, which we're going to have our open house for, is the first time we'll have a true podcast studio in one of our spaces, so we're really excited about that."

The organization's open house will kick off this summer on Friday, June 7. During the event, Able ARTS Work hopes to introduce themselves and connect with the local community and celebrate the grand opening of their first permanent building in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood.

"Our building is symbolic of our purpose and will make sure meaningful services are accessible to people with disabilities, at-risk children and youth, and other members of marginalized communities," founder and CEO Dolas said in a statement. "Able ARTS Work will come together with our community to build a kind of culture where everyone belongs."

That event will get underway at 3841 Atlantic Ave. starting at 6 p.m. It will feature a tour of the building, meet and greet with staff and ambassadors, a scavenger hunt, music, art activities, refreshments, and more. It is free and open to the public.

The new space is a stone's throw from Able ARTS Work's standalone gallery, which features original artwork and handmade items designed by current and past resident artists and musicians. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the EXPO Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave.

The gallery also hosts various workshops and provides community members with a chance to submit their work for exhibition.

"This is a great opportunity for those that show their work already, or for artists who have not shown their work before," Glass said. "Our exhibits coordinator is excellent at providing support for people that have not shown before. She outlines how to create a bio and information to include and some community members have sold their first piece of art through our gallery, which is really exciting."

The exhibits coordinator, Jennifer Morris, makes sure that the exhibits and gallery space showcase the talent of all artists throughout the year.

"The Carlos & Cristina Exhibition," which showcases various pieces from two of the organization's most prolific artists — Carlos Arredondo and Cristina Mariotta — is currently on display at the gallery through June 19.

The gallery also has artists' work for sale, alongside other products including socks, tote bags, notebooks and more. Artists get a commission from merchandise sales.

"It's been a pleasure to create creative spaces that are inclusive for all — all abilities, all ages," Glass said, "and really create a place where all are welcome in the settings that we work in."

The next exhibit this summer is called "A Playful Spirit," which will be composed of artworks from resident artists and artists from the community.

The prompt for everyone was to create just for creation's sake — and revel in the childlike wonder of creating art. There will also be an interactive experience which will allow visitors to add to the artwork, a feature that was inspired by other artists including Yayoi Kusama.

"A Playful Spirit" will open on July 5, with a reception at 6:30 p.m. It will run through September.

Glass encourages the community to visit the gallery and see artists' work.

"Long Beach is a vibrant city with a lot of opportunities for arts," Glass said. "Able ARTS Work has an opportunity to really spotlight the abilities of our talented artists, showcase them in our gallery, and look for opportunities outside of our gallery to show their work as well."


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