Two years ago, I was in Canton, OH, to give a poetry reading at a local art gallery. The gallery’s exhibition was a collection of paintings inspired by my book of poems, Fjords vol. 1, and all the paintings were by local artists at Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities (SCBDD). Before the reading, I visited the SCBDD and met a dozen or so of the artists. I was led around mostly by two of the artists, Richard and Kristin, who ﬁrst walked me into a room where everyone else was doing group-karaoke to Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Then I got a tour through the art facilities which were full of paintings, sculpture, and collage. Some of the artists were fans of my poems. “I like the one where the lion eats the head off the bank teller,” said Scott, another one of the artists.
Both my own father and my sister have dedicated their professional lives to working with the developmentally and intellectually disabled. While I have not, I was inspired by the SCBDD that day to raise awareness for programs like it that are doing good work to support the disabled. I was so moved by each artists’ sincerity, their deep love for poetry and art, and their talent. I’d like to do my own part, in my own way, to support their cause by curating a poetry project that could directly beneﬁt the SCBDD.
This collaboration wouldn’t be possible without the support of Therese Heitkamp, who runs the Just Imagine Gift Gallery at the SCBDD. If you’d like to purchase any of these paintings, or offer positive feedback, reach out to Therese here.
To learn how to you can donate or volunteer at the SCBDD, go here.
I gave the artists at the SCBDD this prompt: What does the future look like? What does your life look like in the future?
From that prompt, I received 12 paintings, and I paired those paintings with 12 poets. The poets were asked to write an ekphrastic poem in collaboration with their painting.