Kara-Lyn Loewen painted three of the 24 panels in this mosaic piece called ‘Tree of Belonging’ which will be on display during The Open Door art exhibition May 29 to June 1 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

New exhibition an open door for artists with varying abilities in Chilliwack

The Open Door is a four-day art show put on by Chilliwack Society for Community Living

Everyone is welcome to walk through The Open Door this week and admire the huge variety of art on display at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

The show features work by dozens of artists with Chilliwack Society for Community Living (CSCL). Sculptures, drawings, mosaic paintings, photo collages and more will blend together for the annual show.

CSCL supports adults with developmental disabilities, children and youth with special needs and their families.

“I think the artwork that comes out of these individuals and the way that they express themselves through art is wonderful,” says Jan Boylan, community support worker with CSCL, and one of the organizers of the exhibition.

Kara-Lyn Loewen with CSCL’s Early Risers program is one of several individuals who’s contributed to a large mosaic painting of a tree made up of 24 one-foot-by-one-foot square canvases.

Loewen painted three of the squares for the piece called ‘Tree of Belonging.’

“I did three pieces because I’m totally into art. I’m so involved in art, I can’t stop,” says Loewen. “I like to work hard like a famous painter.”

Swirls of red, yellow, blue and green move around the black branches of the tree painted by Loewen and her peers. It looks like a stained glass window.

When she saw the final project, she “thought it was amazing.”

Another collaboration project on display will be a photo collage put together by CSCL’s Real Integration through Supported Employment (RISE) program.

“We went all over the community and we were taking pictures,” says Mark Blanchette, one of the individuals with RISE.

Every member with RISE is employed. They photographed each other in their workplace, where they volunteer, doing workshops and chores at CSCL, activities like bowling and golf, and day trips such as a recent one to the fire hall. There are a lot of selfies in the mix, too.

“I love the way [the photos] represent all the things that they’re passionate about,” says Aleks Paleczek, community support worker with CSCL.

Mixed with the images of people and places are photos of text: “the right to speak out for themselves,” “the right to privacy of the body,” and “the right to communicate in their own way” are some examples.

It’s the credo of rights for people with disabilities, adds Paleczek.

The group of seven worked as a team to put the whole piece together, including choosing the font and how to layout the images. The collage is made up of about 400 thumbnails. They are separated into seven framed pieces and together spell out “Our Rise.”

It was “very much a team effort,” says Paleczek.

Some of the other pieces of art for The Open Door have been made out of driftwood by CSCL’s Vedder program.

“We found it in Harrison Lake and we took it back to Vedder program to create our own projects,” says artist Melissa Burton of the driftwood.

A snake, shark, eagle and fish were some of the creations that blossomed out of the driftwood. Burton’s piece, called ‘Sail Away,’ is painted on a rectangular piece of wood with a flat surface.

“It’s a boat on the lake with a seagull [in the air]. I love it,” she says.

It has a sticker price of $20 and many other pieces will be for sale as well.

“Everyone [at Vedder] likes to show their talent to the world,” adds Burton.

The Open Door is on display Wednesday, May 29 to Saturday, June 1 at the O’Connor Group Art Gallery in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Opening reception is Thursday, May 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

•••

Hosted by the Chilliwack Visual Artists Association, The Open Door art show started as a one-day exhibition in 2013 and has grown to four days due to its success. It began after a man who received support through CSCL walked into the doors of the Art Gallery looking for inspiration. Little did the society know how far that one step would take and what a wonderful path it would lead.

CSCL has been supporting individuals with varying abilities and their families since 1954. Some of its services include helping people find employment, teaching them life skills and assisting with independent living.

CSCL supports more than 500 individuals at several locations throughout Chilliwack, Deroche, Agassiz, Harrison and Hope. There are 344 employees with CSCL and 224 active caregivers.

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Mark Blanchette with CSCL’s RISE program holds one of the seven framed photo collages created by him and his peers. It will be on display during The Open Door art exhibition May 29 to June 1 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Melissa Burton with CSCL’s Vedder program created this driftwood piece called ‘Sail Away’ which will be on display during The Open Door art exhibition May 29 to June 1 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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