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The Artists of Project Onward

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These artworks from Project Onward do a great job of lifting my spirits. I hope that you feel the same. We all need a break from the doom and gloom.

Project Onward is a studio and gallery located in Chicago that supports the work of artists with disabilities. Project Onward started in 2004 and currently has over 60 artists participating in the program.

I had the opportunity to volunteer there when I lived in Chicago. It will always be one of my favorite arts organizations. The artists are truly amazing people who have overcome many challenges, and their art is a way of healing and building their self-esteem while gaining well-deserved recognition for their talents. Their creativity is endless.

The artwork made by Project Onward artists ranges from spectacular glitter masterpieces to intricately detailed drawings. Some of the artists specialize in portraits, including amazing pet portraits. (I admit that I have a growing collection of pet portraits that I will cherish forever.) Artwork can be purchased through the online shop. Half of the proceeds go directly to the artists.

We exist to give artists with disabilities a “visual voice” to tell their stories and change the perceptions of the world. Project Onward is a studio and gallery dedicated to the creative growth of adult artists whose lives are impacted by mental illness and developmental disabilities. Our non-profit studio is inclusive and we embrace artists with a wide range of life experiences. Some are self-taught artists who have Autism, while some are formally-trained artists who have bipolar disorder. There are other artists with challenges that are equally complex. However, all of them willingly explore the innermost recesses of their minds to create powerful works of art. 

via Project Onward website

Artwork credit from top to bottom:
“Eden of the South Shore” by Blake Lenoir
“Butterfly” by Safiya Hameed
“Cat Family Picnic” by Ruby Bradford
Fantasy scene by Jacqueline Cousins

Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice.

Featured Artist: Jo Atherton

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“Like the pottery archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will signify our own throwaway society. What will these discarded fragments say about us?

– Jo Atherton

Artist Jo Atherton is the perfect example of an artist using non-traditional materials to create art. We also love that she is bringing awareness to environmental issues.

Atherton creates her art from discarded materials collected along the UK coastline. Using the energy of the sun, she makes gorgeous cyanotype prints (also known as sun prints) of the items. She also weaves tapestries from the items that she discovers.

Atherton believes that we can learn a lot about our past through these washed up objects. Some of the items she finds are 30 years old or more, like old plastic toys. It’s interesting and sad to see what happens to these items when they are no longer loved or needed. In the artist’s words:

“I weave strands of stories to engage the public with sensitive environmental issues in ways that distressing images of marine wildlife cannot. My creative practice has become a useful conduit to explore single-use plastics as most of the flotsam objects I work with are commonplace in our homes.”

Her images are stunning and beautiful, yet they also serve as reminders of the disturbing amount of trash, mainly plastic, that is accumulating in our oceans. The artist cannot solve the issue on her own, but she is doing a great job of bringing awareness to the problem. Through her process, she also recycles items that would otherwise be garbage into meaningful artworks.

Atherton’s work had been widely exhibited. She teaches flotsam weaving workshops, and is also a creative advisor to University College London for their plastic-free campaign, among many other things. More information can be found on her website: joatherton.com.


Image Credits: Copyright © Jo Atherton, joatherton.com.