Aircraft routinely claim the distinction of the only ones taking off at General Mitchell International Airport. Recently at Mitchell International, Tap the Potential lifted awareness of people that defy the laws of social gravity. Tap the Potential is a month long initiative of Milwaukee Public Theatre to give a platform to those that constantly face societal dynamics that designate them exceptional, and often excludable, on account of their physical and mental attributes. More commonly, we have learned to bind them with the concept of disabled.
Opening on October 4, General Mitchell Airport dedicated its concourse lobby to the visual art of a couple dozen artists with disabilities of all types. The carefully shaded color tones piqued canvases with images of all varieties, from exquisitely realistic to stirringly expressive. With it’s closing coinciding with the eve of Gallery Night and Day in Milwaukee, Independence First sponsored the Mitchell Airport show reception and invited travelers, family and friends to offer their written reflections on the artwork from the exhibit’s contributors, including thoughts on group submissions from Donna Lexa Community Art Center and Madison’s VSA Wisconsin.
On the Go, In Awe
Studying the Tap for Potential exhibit pieces, the breadth of styles and techniques wielded by the artists repeatedly strike me with their candor, thoughtfulness and proficiency. Reaching the corner displays, a painting titled Her Hacienda and another titled Her Lady stop me in my tracks, in a way the Spanish villa and Victorian mansion subjects likely would, if I tried to walk past them in real life. A quick note allows me not to forget their author, Jeff LaDow.
Continuing on, patrons gather timidly and some at a distance around an artist painting live. The work in progress gets a dose of precise and exactly blended oil strokes. The artist, Jeff LaDow, holds the brush nimbly with teeth using a device that allows his jaw muscles to exert finely calibrated pressure through the handle, his mark is true.
He meticulously works center stage in the concourse lobby, impervious, as travelers bustle about and reception goers peer over his shoulder. Experiencing an accident in his youth that strickened him quadriplegic, LaDow faces down this challenge by sharing his gifts with the world. When asked about his preferred medium, oil, LaDow states matter-of-factly “It’s easy to work with.” He attracts admirers with every touch of paint.
After October 19th, the Mitchell Airport Tap the Potential contributors’ work will find new space to hang out, possibly permanently with you. If you have interest in purchasing artworks that were a part of the exhibit, contact Jennifer Vattendahl (414) 847 – 1991.
Tap the Potential’s collaborators are VSA Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Office of Persons with Disabilities, Life Navigators, Independence First, Milwaukee Center for Independence, Curative Rehabilitation Center, and Goodwill Industries of Southeast Wisconsin. Learn more about talented artists who don’t use their hands at the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists site.
Tap the Potential sponsored art exhibits continue through the rest of October and include the first art show by aspiring artist Nadia Smale on Friday October 26 at 6:00p at Orcanine Abbey 1718 N. 1st Street Studio 5N2.
Boundless Bravery by Samantha Brody, Scholastic