Hello, my name is Jennifer Lamphere and I am one of your local artists who also happens to be disabled. I hate that term disabled because it sounds like you’re saying you are not able to do anything, but I am capable of a lot of things including art-making and creativity. I used to put the word disabled in front of the word artist but what does that say about me, that I can’t do art? Now I let my art speak for itself. Some art organizations see me with my walker and will not even give me or my artwork another look. Around four years ago my best friend asked me to go to an art show with her at the Lansing art Gallery & Education Center. I was not excited about going I tried to cancel but she would not let me so we went. I have been involved with the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center for about 4 years now. I was a member of one of them and I consider myself a member of their disability program, Art Has No Barriers. The people that have been involved in getting this program going should be congratulated and rewarded for their great work. It is also very important to the Capital City to show that they believe in their people with disabilities.
I am always treated with respect when I visit the Gallery. I have always been encouraged to participate in their activities. The staff treats and sees me as a whole person and not as a disabled person who couldn’t be capable of doing art.
When I took the first Art Has No Barriers class you would have not even have known that this was the first time the Gallery had ever tried anything like this before. They have classes for adults and after-school and summer camp for the kids but they did not have anything for the disabled. It has been such a success that they end up having a waitlist for every event.
Since COVID hit they have been doing art has no barriers activity bags once a month. These are bags where an area artist gets to sign up to help out and design an activity for the month. It has been going so well the bags are gone on the first sign-up day. This program also has a waiting list even after the number of bags given out was raised. The activities range from making actual clay animals to coloring a real drawing of scenery, to a watercolor piece, and a little be-thankful wreath. The bags have been a blast and since they are a pick-up to go thing the kids who do not like to go out can get involved too. This operation takes a lot of work to put together and of course a lot of money. They do ask for a five-dollar donation but if you can’t afford it do not worry you can have one anyways. If you are reading this and are looking for a good program to support this would be the one. Anything that would help donation of money or art supplies for twenty-five people would be great. They make sure we are getting everything we need even a thing as simple as a glue stick. The Gallery asked me if I would like to write a blog about myself and my experience with the Gallery, but they did not ask me to do this: if you are reading this blog and you are trying to find a local small business to get involved with and make donations to it is the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center. We do have a waitlist for the art bags every month and I and a lot of other people would love to see all the disabled people of Ingham county be able to participate if they choose to. I would love to see every disabled person that has an interest in art be able to get involved and all it would take is a little more help.
Speaking of money, I do not know if you have heard that the gallery has a lease\purchase program. Their program is nice, you can buy anything you see in the retail gallery basically and lease it or buy it. I am purchasing a Christmas present, yes, I said Christmas present. Yes, I am one of those crazy people that start their Christmas shopping the day after Christmas. I hate looking for gifts at the last minute and I hate buying unmeaningful gifts that people use for a while and then either keep them out of guilt or throw them away, what a waste. A piece of art is something they will have forever and ever. When I went to open my lease\purchase I was surprised that they were going to let me take the art with me. I was only making the first initial payment and it will not be paid off until November. I thought wow, what other place would do that! What other place would have so much trust in their regular customers? I told the cashier that I would rather leave it there that was why I put it in the program in the first place so I would also have a place to keep it and know where it was at until Christmas. This way the gallery can show it and write sold next to it if they wanted to. The program is great and I know I will keep on using it. By the way, they have gift cards available for that hard to buy for person in your life. When you buy from the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center you are supporting the gallery, the local community, and the artist. You getting a triple hit all in one item because
you are supporting three locals at once. Being an artist myself I know how important it is to support our local arts.
COVID has hit the art industry hard, we could not do the art shows and for artists like me who don’t sell online, it’s been a really hard time. The one thing I can say about the art community in greater Lansing and the surrounding areas that stood out to me is that we are there for each other. Everyone was there for you on the social media sites to talk things over and to help people find the help they needed. Just because COVID is starting to come to an end it does not mean we can stop the support. We need to more than ever check up on our local artists if we have not heard from them and just say “hi, I was thinking about you, how are you doing?”. We are a close-knit group and we can make it through this if we all stick together. I love all my artsy friends and cannot wait to see you all again! Until then keep safe, wear your mask for a little longer, and get your immunizations. I want to see and work with you all again.