How do you define home? For the past year, 14 residents living in the Institute for Community Living‘s houses around New York have been trying to tackle this question through art. Now their interpretations are on display in the Education Gallery of the Brooklyn Museum.
Wednesday, June 7 marked the opening night of the ICL art exhibition, an annual event for the Brooklyn Museum and ICL, a non-profit organization that provides support services for thousands of people across New York, including individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities like the exhibit’s artists. This year was the fifteenth year of collaboration between the museum and ICL, whose residents go on monthly visits to the Brooklyn Museum. It was from these monthly visits that the idea of exploring the concept of home came about, according to ICL’s arts and activity counselor, Dylan Stanfield.
Tying together the art in the Egyptian collection, the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and the other exhibits they experienced during their museum visits, Stanfield found a commonality in what he and the ICL residents were seeing: perceptions of home throughout history.
“As we went through other exhibits, I would try and bring some aspects of thinking about our own home to the artists,” said Stanfield. “We saw this show about the color blue, and from there I asked them to think about the colors you associated with your room or your house or your experience. Are there smells you associate with it? Sounds you associate with home?” Stanfield said that he used these questions as a gateway to meditating on the definition of home.
For ICL’s artists, Stanfield’s prompts led to the creation of bright watercolor paintings, photographs and intricate sculptures. In the residents’ artist statements, there was a common thread of associating home with familiarity and comfort. One artist, Javon Potter expressed in his artist statement, “Having a home means being proud to have my own place. Pizza and a clean-smelling house remind me of home.”
Altya Henson, ICL’s Senior Vice President of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities explained that art allows people with disabilities to express themselves when they cannot use words. “It allows us to see another side of the individuals,” she said, “to get the general population to understand that though they’re disabled, they have talents.”
The ICL art exhibition will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum until July 30.