FEATURE | Posted March 14, 2016

Bold Vision, Bright Future depicted in murals at the MIND

Ceramic installation created by artists with developmental disabilities

Visitors to the UC Davis MIND Institute’s Massie Family Clinic are now met with a wall of vibrant colors and whimsical designs in ceramic tile, a creation of The Mural Project, which combined the talents of three professional artists and artists with developmental disabilities from the Short Centers.

Installed in January, “Bold Vision, Bright Future” is comprised of four separate pieces, each with one of the aforementioned words accompanying images that include a woman adorned in a tropical forest, a director filming a movie, friends walking down a trail and a man playing guitar in the sunshine. The series’ name references the UC Davis Health System’s mission of “Improving lives and transforming health care,” and its vision of a “Healthier world through bold innovation.” 

“We used the vision because it was perfect for our artwork,” said Stephanie Skalisky, professional artist and co-founder of The Mural Project. “Bold vision is pretty much what The Mural Project is all about.” 

Partnering with the community

Sacramento’s Short Centers are part of the Developmental Disabilities Services Organization Inc. (DDSO) and were founded more than 40 years ago as arts-based programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The Short Centers have a variety of art classes, from sewing to ceramics to painting. The Mural Project is one of DDSO’s outreach programs, and is partially funded by The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s Cultural Arts Award. 

Professional artists Skalisky, Valentino Fernandez and Patricia Wood created the murals along with 17 artists who have developmental disabilities, ranging from multiple sclerosis to Down syndrome to autism. Some of the contributors are well known in the Sacramento arts community and exhibit at fairs and galleries in the area. Short Center artists are enthusiastic supporters of other organizations making a positive impact in the disabilities field, such as the MIND Institute.

Learn more about the MIND Institute

UC Davis MIND Institute © UC RegentsThe UC Davis MIND Institute was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome.

More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.

“The ceramic pieces are a wonderful addition to the MIND Institute’s collection of art by people with developmental disabilities,” said MIND Institute Director Leonard Abbeduto. “The art captures our vision perfectly. We are truly honored that the talented artists of the Short Centers chose us to be the inspiration for their talent and hard work.”

The artists began working on the design in the summer of 2015. Short Center artists drew plans by hand before the team collectively chose the final design. During classes, the professional artists then drew the design onto pre-cut porcelain tiles. The tiles were later glazed and fired in a kiln.

Often, one artist will be particularly skilled at designing, Skalisky said, while another will be more adept at glazing, which helps gives everyone an opportunity to contribute as an arts producer. While each person in the group might be independently working on different pieces, they’re all contributing toward a larger, final project. 

The artists then crafted personalized, mosaic tiles to border each of the four pieces by rolling out clay, cutting the specific shape, glazing and finishing the tiles in the kiln. From initial design to installation, the collaboration took about seven months. All of the artists were paid for their contributions to the mural. 

“The Mural Project really showcases the talents of artists with disabilities and allows them to be contributors to our community,” said Skalisky. “It’s a positive experience for everyone.”

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