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Rise Up Gallery -- Utilizing Art to Uplift a Community

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I remember the first time I saw the TEMPT1 video featuring The Eyewriter. I was having a dinner party/gathering at my apartment, which I would host occasionally, in order to get other like minded creative artist/activists together in NYC and share ideas (and have fun ). I told my buddy, who is a prominent graffiti writer, about my idea of offering adaptive art workshops to people living with paralysis and he was like "DUDE! You've gotta see this!" Enter TEMPT1 and The Eyewriter.

When my shock and amazement began to fade I realized this video validated the mission of the organization I was about to launch, The Rise Up Gallery. My mission was two fold:

1) Offer adaptive art workshops to assist in the physical and mental recovery following a catastrophic injury or illness.
2) Create a tertiary income opportunity for the disabled.

Now, two and a half years later, Miami has embraced us and Wynwood, with its vibrant energy, has become the perfect locale for Rise Up. A strategic partnership with Jackson Memorial Hospital, allows us to offer our adaptive art workshops to newly and long time injured paralysis patients. We find brushstrokes to be incredibly healing. In addition, many survivors unable to pursue their former career path are provided a vital income opportunity through the sale of art, to supplement expenses such as medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and even groceries.

Street Art defines Wynwood. Its everywhere. It doesn't hang in an exclusive gallery or museum. It is there for all people to see. Its a perfect example of how art can not only alter a landscape, but also make a positive impact on the community. It uplifts blighted neighborhoods and I like to think we are uplifting a blighted population with our adaptive art workshops. Many volunteers for Rise Up are local artists who are happy to help on a project in the studio, run an art workshop in the hospital or participate in a gallery event such as 2nd Saturday Artwalk. Often times the volunteers are just as inspired as the disabled artists whom they are helping. In addition, the development of Wynwood as an arts destination shows the existing community what is possible through art. New restaurants, galleries, community organizations, movie theaters, boutiques and taverns have all emerged from the vibrantly painted walls of old warehouses. There is no denying the impact art has made on this once forgotten neighborhood of Miami and Rise Up is proud to be part of the movement.

How does a quadriplegic paint with her limbs being paralyzed? How does art manifest through pain and loss? What color is survival?

Rise Up Gallery explores the immense creative power and unique perspective of survivors of a catastrophic injury now living with paralysis. Imagine narrowly escaping death. Your emotions are filled with pain, regret and denial. Art is your outlet leading you to inspiration and hope. Many people with paralysis think art (along with many other tasks) is impossible to do post injury. So in order to create, an artist with paralysis needs to discover unorthodox or adaptive techniques such as stencils, throwing/dripping paint, utilizing mouthsticks, handbraces, cuffs, fingers, squeegees and even ones own wheelchair as brush. Once examined, the possibilities are endless.

Survivors of a spinal cord injury or illness causing paralysis, inherently become problem solvers. We must learn different ways to shower, get dressed, drive a vehicle, eat, earn a living and the list goes on. We accept these "challenges" as the new normal and to flourish in our everyday lives we must "find a way." Perseverance as well as patience are personality traits that you will undoubtedly learn in order to overcome the tremendous obstacles that paralysis creates.

How far would you go to express yourself? How often would you fail before you give up? Having your eye movement dictate a brush stroke. Utilizing a wheelchair as a brush. Painting with a mouth stick. Incorporating gravity to disperse paint. Rise Up Gallery is committed to pushing the boundaries of how art is created and viewed. We intend to show that art has no extremities and does not conform as it is limitless.