New studio, long a haven for disabled artists, opens to general public

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Marcia Thrower says of the studio: "Disabled people really don't have anyplace to go to create art, so this really meets a need."
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Marcia Thrower says of the studio: "Disabled people really don't have anyplace to go to create art, so this really meets a need."
Posted: February 10, 2014

SOME OF THE artwork in the basement art studio that Vicki Landers and Ray Deca run in Center City brims with the perspective of the disabled artists who created it.

On one canvas, "PISS on pity" is the slogan beside the symbol of a person in a wheelchair. Another work pictures a woman sitting, head bowed, in a wheelchair, beside an image of the same woman standing, head held high, in a slinky, sexy gown.

Artists Landers and Deca opened Independence EDGE Studio last weekend in the same space where the disability-advocacy group Liberty Resources has run an art studio since 2000.

Already, Independence EDGE bustles with many of the same artists who have used it for years. That's because the new studio has the same mission as the old one - to make art accessible to all, no matter their disabilities.

But since last week, the studio has been open to the general public. Landers and Deca especially are courting kids, given the city school district's deep arts-education cuts. Youth programs at Independence EDGE are free.

"It's kind of a rebirth," said Thomas H. Earle, chief executive officer of Liberty Resources, which still funds the studio.

Located in the cavernous basement of the Sovereign Building on Market Street near 7th, the studio houses artists who specialize in everything from painting, drawing and textiles to photography, graphic design, poetry and music.

Artists can create, display and sell their works there. "Inspire the Young" programs targeting children ages 7 to 13 are free from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Coming soon: A tattoo-appreciation class, music and artistic performances, "think tank" art-discussion groups and an EDGE TV reality series. And a white-brick wall along one side of the studio is a blank canvas for a mural contest Landers is organizing.

The space has plenty of gadgets to help disabled artists create their visions. Easels big enough to prop atop one's lap or across the armrests of a wheelchair have handles and clips to keep works-in-progress from slipping out of place. Also available: Headgear with a unicorn-hornlike pointer to attach a paintbrush or pencil and other such tools for those unable to move fingers, hands or arms. Volunteers fluent in sign-language are on hand.

Several of Marsha Thrower's realistic penciled figures are on display. She whips around the studio with ease in the wheelchair she's used since 1999 because of multiple sclerosis and scoliosis.

But with her 32 piercings and silver bangles decorating her hands and wrists, her wheelchair isn't the first thing you notice about her. And that's the way she likes it; she's the creator of the "PISS on pity" stamped canvas.

"I've been creating art since my mama put a crayon in my hand," said Thrower, 48, of North Philly.

"Disabled people really don't have anyplace to go to create art, so this really meets a need," she added.


On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo

Blog: phillyconfidential.com

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