If you hang out around participants in UMAR for any length of time, you’ll run through a range of feelings.
Unnecessary pity may be the first impression when you meet folks described as developmentally disabled. That might be followed by surprise as you learn about their skills and interests, then curiosity about them as individuals.
But I attend the UMAR luncheon every year at Providence United Methodist Church, so I skip those responses and go straight to envy. I can neither paint nor draw nor weave nor throw pots nor make jewelry. When I see work I like made by people who can, my first impression is “Wish I could do that.”
I snapped up a wall hanging by UMAR artist Karen Wilson at the typically modest price and am now looking for the right spot in my home. As you see from the photograph (I’m not great at those either), “Karen’s Universe” consists of fabric planets on a deep blue background infused with tiny stars. I would have bought the fabric-decorated pillow that went with it, but our cats like to turn those into confetti and redecorate the house.
UMAR has the motto “Live. Work. Thrive.” Its arts programs belong to the “thrive” part and occasionally overlap into the “work” part. For instance, UMAR participant Sean Reilly has developed an artistic business at McGill Rose Garden; he teaches people how to create topiary figures and pulled down $300 worth of pre-orders at the lunch. (I am not the target audience for Sean, because growing plants...nope, don’t do that either.)
I stopped judging long ago what any person could or could not do or might or might not be. And each time I end up at a UMAR art sale, I come away a little poorer in the checkbook and richer in understanding.