H’Art exhibition shows a lot of heart

Centre for adults with disabilities puts on an encouraging art show for the community

Windmills Cafe in downtown Kingston hosted the event.
Windmills Cafe in downtown Kingston hosted the event.
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Fine art and fine dining unite to create an unforgettable exhibition in downtown Kingston.

This month, Windmills fine dining restaurant, located in downtown Kingston, and H’Art Centre arts school for adults with intellectual disabilities collaborated and put together a truly moving exhibit.

The exhibit, I Say I Am, consists of colourful acrylic paintings by the school’s artists and is on display at Windmills from May 4 to 31.

H’Art Centre is a non-profit, charitable organization striving to assist intellectually disabled adults to experience their full potential through education and art.

H’Art students were introduced to general stereotypes as well as exposed to stereotypes of themselves through their media class. The experience is what inspired the exhibit’s theme.

“It is called I Say What I Am because they wanted to say who they are as opposed to other people saying who they are,” said H’Art visual arts director, Diane Kearnan.

The theme’s goal was to give the artists a chance to express themselves and their capabilities regardless of the stereotypes made about them.

From September to December, the H’Art artists studied the post-impressionistic styles of artists Emily Carr and Vincent van Gogh, as well as the impressionistic work of Mary Cassatt. The exhibit included pastiches of these artists as well as original artwork inspired by the H’Art artist’s personal experiences.

Kirsten Smith, a H’Art artist, uses her own experiences as inspiration for her art.

“I made that picture of a friend and I at church because I wanted to sing for my father before he died,” she said regarding her work. Her piece, an acrylic painting, was filled with jewel tones and bright impactful colours.

The painting gave off a carefree and cheerful appearance. The effort Smith put into creating it was evident to the viewer.

Jenna Gregg, another H’Art artist, projected her unique experiences and imagination on canvas through her painting Torch Run.

“It’s for the Special Olympics and running with the torch. I held the torch at the opening and closing ceremonies in Kingston. It was a big honour,” Gregg said.

The pride and joy that Gregg put into this painting could be seen through the exciting brushwork and heavy application of paint. Her work conveyed a strong sense of purpose through its straightforward and dynamic style.

Windmills is known for their local food menu as well as their display of local artwork. They have been hosting H’art’s exhibit annually for the past three years.

“It puts an automatic smile on people’s faces. It’s a good-feel art display and it’s one that we’ve been having here more years than I can remember and I’ve been here for 17 years,” said Windmills general manager Denise Moore.

Most pieces of this year’s exhibit have sold since it opened two weeks ago, a sign of its success, Moore said.

Viewers acknowledge the exhibit’s themes of rejecting stereotypes about the disabled community with compassion.

“It makes viewers more respectful and appreciative of what goes into this,” she said, adding that the experience of viewing people’s reactions to the H’Art artists work is rewarding.

“It’s like looking at people who just won the Olympics, scored As on a test or just graduated university… it’s the same excitement and being proud that their work is on the walls,” Moore said.

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