SCAC hosts the Helen Keller Art Show

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

The 21st annual Helen Keller Art Show of Alabama was hosted for the first time by one of its sponsors, The Shelby County Arts Council.  The gallery for this show opened officially on the Sunday afternoon of Jan. 24.

Visitors will be treated to the colorful and imaginative artwork of students of all ages and from schools all over the state of Alabama who happen to also be blind or deaf. From whimsical ocean memories to artwork honoring caregivers, the artists shown in the exhibit not only share work with an emphasis on creative color and tactile mediums, but they also have the opportunity to tell about the inspiration for their work as well as a little bit about themselves and their interests.

Director of the show, Shirley Wilson, honored each child’s story as every piece in the exhibit was highlighted in Sunday’s program. Several students also received special awards known as Purchase Awards. A list of special sponsors chose to purchase pieces of artwork from the exhibit that will be hung in their place of business after the show travels to eight galleries across the state this year. These awards are an extra special honor for those who submitted work.

The main sponsor of the show is the UAB School of Optometry’s Vision Science Research Center. VSRC Director Steven Pittler spoke at the top of the program to thank the artists and reassure families of students that a cure is constantly being pursued and that their work in the meantime is valued and helpful when it comes to spreading the word to communities and other bodies of research.

We caught up with one young artist, 12-year-old Audrey Nickell, who was one of the Purchase Award recipients. Nickell is a student of Mrs. Johnston of Thompson Intermediate school, and her artwork, titled “Remember the Joy,” is a mixed media piece created with melted crayons, seashells, bird grit and other tactile art mediums. When we asked her about the inspiration for her piece, she told us she experienced her very first sea turtle in the wild during a trip to the beach last year and that she wanted to make a piece of art that inspired people to remember that there were good things that happened in 2020, not just the pandemic. She even incorporated some of the seashells she gathered on her trip into her artwork, which added more meaning to her.

To see the work, art lovers can visit the Shelby County Arts Council Facebook page for the live feed of Sunday’s program, or they can visit the Vision Science Research Center webpage where information about the traveling exhibit will soon be posted. To find out more about the Helen Keller Art Show of Alabama and how to become involved or to partner in research for a cure, you can email show Director Shirley Wilson at sjwilson@UAB.edu.