Kerri Martin listened to Toto’s “Africa” as she worked on her art, drawing peacocks with sharpies and magic markers. She said as the music got louder, she could feel it flow through her hands to express herself through art, mimicking watercolors.
Her artwork is one of 265 pieces created by 150 artists who are neurodiverse and being assisted with developmental disabilities that will be on display this weekend at the Spirit of Huntington Art Center.
“Art is life and life is so fluid,” Martin said. “I don’t use a single color but a cornucopia of colors and concepts. I start with a subject of a drawing and work on the background to make it pop.”
The art exhibit, known as ArtAbility, will celebrate inclusion and diversity in the arts at the Huntington Station gallery and art studio off Jericho Turnpike and Melville Road.
It will feature artists from a dozen different organizations the serve young adults and youth including RISE Life Services, the Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, the South Huntington School District and the Winters Center for Autism.
Martin, 27, of Oakdale, joined the art center in January when her mother said she needed help socializing. Since she started taking classes, she has flourished and was hired by the center to be a teaching assistant.
“This helped me make friends and fit into an environment as an artist. I've always loved art and it has taken me time to stand out,” she said. “I've learned different mediums and learned to appreciate art levels that are all beautiful and unique. We are all literal pieces of art and no two same pieces of art are the same and that's why I love being here.”
A reception Friday will kick off the exhibition and the gallery will be open to the public Saturday for 45 days in Huntington before select works go to the Hamptons Art Fair, the Nassau County Museum of Art and the Agora Gallery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
Michael Kitakis, the executive director of the art center, said he wants the public to appreciate the art, not because it may be done by an artist with special needs, but because it’s great art.
“We’re celebrating inclusivity and diversity in the arts because it’s so important for these participants to be recognized and celebrated for their creative expression,” Kitakis said. “They need a voice and so often they’re not heard and acknowledged. I think nothing is more important for them to express their thoughts, dreams successes and fears. For a lot of people, they don't have the ability to communicate well and we all just want to be heard.”
The artwork ranges from graphic design to paintings to pottery.
Matthew Albanese, 25, of Dix Hills works on a computer to design posters, including an advertisement for Adventureland. He is now working as an intern for the art center.
“I like to be creative and colorful,” he said. “It's going to make me imaginative.”
Ryan Schilling, 23, of Dix Hills, works with clay and said he returned after classes were shut down for two years during the pandemic.
“It makes me really happy and gives me a sense of self that I’m accepted and loved,” he said. “It's a whole separate family other than my actual family. I think Spirit of Huntington is my second home.”
- At Spirit of Huntington Art Center, 2 Melville Road, Huntington Station
- Opening night reception Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
- Opening day: Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free admission.