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Arts And Artists Unbound

Michael signing his artwork used for awards at an annual event.
The Rev. Diane Riley
Inspiration is one of those things that can’t be described very easily. What is the source of an idea that floats from our unconscious mind into our awareness? Those of us who believe in God will give credit where credit is due, at the hands of our Creator. But whether we believe or not, inspiration leads to actions and concrete creations from that one moment of illumination. And all who are involved – in very immediate ways or as witness to the creation – are touched. Through the generous contributions of so many faithful people last year, the Alleluia Fund was able to be part of some very exciting creative stories. Catherine Lazen, founder of Arts Unbound, explains her epiphany this way. After working many years in counseling and education with children on the fringe, she began to raise her family and pursue her vocation as a fiber artist creating memory quilts for children and widows of 9/11. Shortly thereafter she went to an art show featuring disabled artists and was mesmerized by one in particular. Judith Scott, an artist with Down Syndrome, created something so unique – beautiful cocoon like fiber sculptures. “Artists like Judith changed my perception of people with disabilities, helping me to realize and appreciate their creative vision, powerful spirit and irrepressible need to create.” Lazen soon discovered that New Jersey had plenty of practical vocational programs to teach the disabled job skills and also some that offered art classes, but there were none that offered access to the needed materials or provided opportunities to exhibit, the tangible things that would support their careers as artists. Arts Unbound was born with this vision: to invest in human creative potential, legitimize the artistic ability, and expand the vocational opportunities of the disabled. Today Arts Unbound works with 30 gallery artists. By taking professional classes and using the opportunities to create in the studio, they continue to develop. Their work is shown throughout New Jersey in churches, galleries, and art exhibitions. Arts Unbound Director Gail Levinson explains just how far their light shines. Certainly the artists are enriched in their spirit but also enriched and rewarded monetarily. All those who work with the artists know they are part of something really special. But also, the public being privy to the artist’s journey can “see” it communicated on canvas. They understand in a new way something profoundly different about disabilities and how something previously thought of as only limiting can also be the very thing that informs the creation of unlimited imaginative possibilities. Michael’s Story Michael is a fifteen year old boy with autism. He is also an artist. He recently had a picture selected for a greeting card as part of the Arts Unbound greeting card business. Habitat for Humanity saw it, loved it, and used it for a poster for their year end event. A housing development organization saw it and commissioned it to be used as a template for their awards to community leaders. The picture above is of Michael signing his artwork used for awards at an annual event. He signed limited editions which were framed and matted under glass with plaques for each of six award winners. Michael was applauded at that conference by the over 400 conference attendees and watched as his artwork was handed out to the various award winners. He received a percentage of the sales proceeds that Arts Unbound was paid for the award plaques. This is but one example of how youth and adult artists are promoted by the organization so that they can continue to create, become known by a growing audience, and earn a supplemental income. The award of Alleluia funds allowed matching dollars to be provided by the NJ Council on Disabilities for a greeting card business and promotion of artwork by artists living with disabilities. It allows artists like Michael the time and opportunity for his light to shine. To learn more about Arts Unbound Inc. and meet more artists like Michael, visit or contact Ms. Gail Levinson, or 973-675-2787. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” - Matthew: 5:16