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Art show at Roads to Freedom

First Friday Special Feature

May 27, 2012
By JOSH BROKAW - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Roads to Freedom, the Center for Independent Living of North Central Pennsylvania, will hold an art show this coming First Friday at 24 E. Third St., from 5 to 8 p.m.

It will be the second consecutive year that an art show will be held at Roads to Freedom, which hopes to make the display an annual event, said James Baker, a peer support coordinator.

"Our first show we did for disability awareness," Baker said. "This year, we're going for more art, in general."

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Seven artists are slated to show this year, more than in year one.

"We want to do this every year," Baker said. "We've brought in a lot more people and done a lot more promotion, and we're hoping having it on First Friday will bring in a lot more people to see us."

Roads to Freedom life skills trainer Shawn Starr had the idea for the first show last year, after meeting a number of artists with disabilities through her work there.

"We drew a nice enough crowd last year that we decided to try again this year," Starr says. "Before I started here, I was a local artist who always sold my jewelry and paintings at First Friday - through the years of therapy following my brain injury, painting was a huge part of how I coped with all of the new emotions."

The relation between art and therapy is a strong one at Roads to Freedom. Those who might not be able to find words to communicate their inner states sometimes find their handicraft a way to let out otherwise inexpressible emotions.

"There are lots of people who might not be able to say what they mean, and then they were able to explain their meaning through a piece," Baker said. "Growing up without much money, I know I was able to make things that meant more to people as gifts, when you put work into it."

As a teaching tool at Roads to Freedom, the 'edutainment' aspect of art is invaluable.

"I was working with one gentleman who was struggling with hand-eye coordination, and I asked him to put together some puzzles for my office wall - he did six without even thinking about it," Baker said.

There's no specific theme to the show, for the artists involved are simply showing what they have made in recent times.

"I think an artist just makes art all the time for the simple reason that it is what they enjoy doing," Starr said. "Most of the artists in the show have been painting all year, or making jewelry for months - we have been making preparations for the show since March, recruiting artists and working out details."

For that reason, Starr said she didn't put many restrictions on entries to this year's showing.

"I allow as many or as few pieces as the artist wants to show," she says. "The only rule is no nudity or vulgarity."

"It's nice so that people who might not show their work in a mainstream museum, or hang it next to things with a price tag in a gallery can show their work," Baker said.

Attendees will be asked to vote with donations for their favorite piece, and there will be a prize for the piece that draws the most monetary acclaim. There also will be crafts and jewelry for sale at the show.

"We want to make people know that we're here - that if you have a disability or want to learn life skills, use the computer, hang out in our lounge, we're here," Baker said. "We don't charge people directly for our services."

"Hopefully it also brings a crowd into Roads To Freedom CILNCP so the public can see what we do here," Starr said.

Weekly events held at the Center include meetings of the "Chair Zen" group, which is open to everyone and focuses on meditation and relaxation, and an Autism Spectrum Disorder socialization and support group.

Roads to Freedom also sponsors a yearly wheelchair basketball game, plants trees for Earth Day, and on June 22, will hold a "Luau" from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Center, with a $1 admission fee.

The "Roads to Freedom" 2012 Art Show will run from 5 to 8 p.m. during First Friday at 24 Third St. More information about the Center is available at



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