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Marks on the walls
Making art as a means of healing is central to "I Have Marks to Make."
Alma's ‘Memorial' (detail)

Even after a year of particularly diverse offerings — from early 20th Century French Surrealists to the art and technology highlighted during Pulse — "I Have Marks to Make," the show opening at the Jepson on Dec. 5 still stands out from the rest.

"It's not like the others. It's not just a party or a lecture," says Harry DeLorme, Senior Curator of Education. "It's very much coming from the participants who are telling their stories, whether it's in paint or words. They're sharing their stories and experiences."

What makes the show so different is that the works are, for the most part, not created by professional artists, but are submitted through a variety of partnering organizations and institutions from across the community. The focus is on providing a voice for artists with disabilities as well as people using art as a means of healing.

"Initially we were thinking about it as a therapeutic art show and looking specifically at artists with disabilities," DeLorme explains. "The show really grew from there into a much larger and more open sort of concept in which we were looking at the therapeutic nature of art making."

Organizations that partner with the Jepson for the show include Memorial's Rehabilitation Institute, the school system's Department for Exceptional Children, St. Joseph/Candler's Rehabilitation Center, the Association for the Blind, and many others.

"We rely on the organizations to submit work," says DeLorme. "We never know what to expect until work starts coming in."

There are no constraints placed on submissions, so work comes in many forms, from poetry, which is often recited during the opening reception or published in an anthology, to drawings, paintings and, this year, even a large mural. The only limitation is the available wall space, so each organization is limited to about 10 submissions each, and the show will feature more than 100 individual works.

The broad support the show has received, from artists, organizations and the community, is part of the key to the annual show's longevity. This year is the 16th installment of the show.

"I don't know that we thought it would go this long when we started it, but it's something that seems to continue to resonate with the community and the various organizations that we work," says DeLorme.

The show resonates because it is so different – raw, unpolished and unabashed – art distilled to its root of self–expression.

"I'd say it's definitely the most moving opening," DeLorme says. "It's a little unpredictable but, to me at least, it always seems moving."

Testament to the highly personal nature of the show is the name itself. "I Have Marks to Make" was taken from a painting done by an Atlanta–based artist named Katharine Dahl who took part in an exhibit at the Telfair years ago featuring work from participants in a brain injury support group. It's one of the few pieces that has made it from the annual exhibit into the permanent collection of the museum.

"This work was really about her own personal process of coming to grips with making art after a traumatic accident and the realization that she maybe wasn't going to be making art the way she once had," says DeLorme. "This painting really was about her struggle. It really summed up what this exhibit is all about."

"I Have Marks to Make"

When: Opening reception, Dec. 5, 2–5 p.m.

Where: Jepson  Center, 207 W. York St.