Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s Art Ability Helps People with Disabilities Find Inspiration Through Art

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Carol Spiker will be the featured artist at the 24th Annual Art Ability Exhibition and Sale. One of her pieces is seen on the right.

Painting has always been Carol Spiker’s passion, but it wasn’t until after her life-altering accident that she understood just what the brush and canvas truly mean to her.

In 1998, Spiker – an active woman who worked for an ad agency, started a lacrosse program that ran for 26 years, and studied painting in college – was thrown into a creek when her car was hit on I-95. She immediately realized that she was paralyzed, but in that moment, she found a silver lining.

“My only words were, ‘Thank God I have my hands,’” Spiker said.

Although her paralysis makes painting more difficult, art has become a driving force in her life.

“It has sharpened my focus a little more,” she said. “Painting is what brings me the most joy.”

Spiker will be the featured artist at the 24th Annual Art Ability Exhibition and Sale that runs from Nov. 2 to Jan. 26 at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in Malvern. The annual preview party will be held on Nov. 2 from 5-10 PM.

Art Ability is a program at Bryn Mawr Rehab, which is a part of Main Line Health, that is dedicated to creating community awareness of people with disabilities and encouraging people with disabilities to reach beyond their limitations and find fulfillment and inspiration through art.

Art Ability offers a unique and accessible venue for artists with disabilities to display and sell their work. In addition to supporting Bryn Mawr Rehab’s vision and mission to advocate for those with disabilities in the community, while advancing the artistic and financial success of artists with disabilities, the art in the exhibition is used daily to motivate and treat patients at the hospital.

At its inception in 1996, the annual exhibition and sale included approximately 40 participating artists and 200 pieces of artwork on display. Since then, the most recent exhibitions have featured more than 400 pieces of art, sculpture, and jewelry by 200 artists representing 30 states and eight countries.

During the exhibition, artists receive 80 percent of proceeds from the sale of their pieces, with 20 percent earmarked to support Bryn Mawr Rehab’s nationally recognized patient treatment programs.

“I kind of went to my first (Art Ability) exhibition kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to be thought of as a disabled artist; I just wanted to be an artist,” Spiker said. “I had a dear friend who ran the program who kept urging me to participate.”

When she finally did, it changed her life.

“My eyes just opened,” Spiker said. “It was amazing getting to meet the other artists and see their incredible work. It wasn’t about being disabled. It was about the beauty of the artwork and hearing the stories behind it from the artists.”

Making art exposes oneself, and for Spiker, that can be scary. Over time, she has learned that it takes courage to put your work out there to be seen by the world and judged by others. This understanding – that she must be brave – has helped her through her journey as a paraplegic.

Click here to learn more about Art Ability or to register for the preview party.

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