Giving a Voice to Artists with Disabilities

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

“I like to make pictures,” says Edwin Mendez, an artist at Esperanza Community Services. “I like to draw people and trucks and houses.” Mendez, like his colleagues at Esperanza, is an artist who also has a developmental disability. They attend the Adult Day Program at Esperanza Community Services, a nonprofit that supports people with developmental disabilities to learn and build skills, as well as friendships. In addition to educational, residential, and in-home care programs, Esperanza has a robust arts program that supports participants to express themselves through painting, drawing, printmaking and other visual media. “Each artist possesses a unique vision and personal means of expression,” said Steve Juras, artist and Esperanza board member. “It’s amazing to see the quality and distinctiveness of their work, and Esperanza artists bring a love of art to their work that is unparalleled.”

Montserrat Alsina, owner of Colibri Studio and Gallery in Pilsen, finds that the works created by Esperanza artists are uniquely expressive. “Their art is incredible,” Alsina said. “There are rich textures, and such freedom of expression and absolute spontaneity. Some remind me of Joan Miro or Kandinsky. Their pieces have elements that I try to capture in my own art. I think the artists at Esperanza have a lot that they can teach us about creating.” She also sees the Fall Arts Fest as a way of boosting the reach of artists with disabilities. Esperanza’s Fall Arts Fest is 6-9 PM on Friday, November 13. Colibri Studio and Gallery is located at 2032 W. 18th Street in Pilsen. Admission is free with RSVP at The event is made possible in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Archetype Design and Construction. For information, please call 312.243.6097 x 131 or email, or visit

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