UCENT art exhibit empowers individuals affected by disabilities

Stephanie Snyder
"Inclusive Communities" is a part of the 411 Gallery, which rotates three times a year. Each exhibition focuses on an issue contemporary social importance. (Stephanie Snyder/DD)

A new art exhibit focused on uniting the community and promoting social engagement opened last week on the first and second floors of the University Center building on ASU’s Downtown campus.

With a theme of “Inclusive Communities,” the display, organized by the College of Public Program’s “Action, Advocacy, Arts” series, seeks to highlight disabled but gifted individuals and the pivotal roles they play in society.

“The exhibit focuses on celebrating and empowering individuals with disabilities and the assets they bring to the community,” said Jessica Shea, community engagement art coordinator for the College of Public Programs.

The exhibit, which will run until Jan. 20, features artists whose lives have been impacted by disabilities, Shea said. Artists include ASU students, as well as members of various organizations and the surrounding community.

Holly Anderson, one of the featured artists, has struggled for 12 years with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain, and spondylosis, a type of arthritis affecting the spine. Anderson turned to art as a method of natural healing.

“I used to be hooked up to a pain pump and was on tons of pain pills,” said Anderson, 33, of Glendale. “I thought, ‘There just has to be a different way.’”

Anderson began studying the effects of colors on the human brain and experimenting with bold hues in her paintings.

“When working with certain colors, I would completely forget about my pain,” she said. “If I painted with red or orange, I could forget that I even had issues.”

Anderson hasn’t taken a painkiller in over a year. She said American doctors say there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but she disagrees.

“I feel I’ve cured myself with my art,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s painting, displayed on the second floor, is a testament to such color therapy. “Building Blocks” arranges blocks of color and words that promote coexistence.

Each color has special significance due to the reaction it causes in the human brain, Anderson said, citing the green color behind the words “Will 2 Change” as being commonly associated with growth, renewal, and relaxation.

The words and phrases included in the artwork also hold particular meaning for Anderson as traits essential to an accepting and diverse society, which she represents by incorporating words in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic and Navajo.

“This piece is a modern perspective of inclusive communities,” Anderson said. “Before we build anything we must take action and build a firm foundation. It takes time, patience, and perseverance.”

More than that, it takes a strong support group of friends and family, Anderson said, emphasizing the importance of understanding and tolerance.

“The hardest part of dealing with (a disability) is getting people to accept it,” she said.

Contact the reporter at chloe.brooks@asu.edu


  1. Great article! I’m so glad ASU has these art exhibits inside of UCENT. They are such a fantastic way to get students to engage in the arts in straightforward, community-focused way.