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Arts Unbound Challenges What It Means to Be an Outsider

Through its innovative Art Garden CSA, Arts Unbound works to commission new work from artists with disabilities and connect them with buyers.

Digital collage of mixed media collage #Selfie
Theda Sandiford, “Inner Beauty,” 2016 (photo courtesy Arts Unbound)

Arts Unbound Challenges What It Means to Be an Outsider

Arts Unbound works with artists who are considered outsider artists, but not always because they are self-taught. They are all outsiders in a different sense of the word. They all either have physical, developmental, or mental disabilities, or they started their artistic work later in life and face the challenges of aging while remaining creative.

The nonprofit was founded 16 years ago by Cate Lazen, an artist and educator who saw a need for an arts organization with a serious vocational focus to promote careers in the arts for people with disabilities of all kinds. The group later added participatory arts programming for seniors when they saw that group too being denied quality instruction and support.

Now the group is encouraging people to question not only who they buy art from but how. Art Garden CSA is the group’s innovative partnership with the Matheny Hospital’s Arts Access program. This entrepreneurial model commissions new work from artists with disabilities and connects them with buyers. Shareholders receive a work of art from each participating artist. This new way of buying art means artists are paid for their work before they produce it, mitigating their financial risk. Other CSAs exist, but Art Garden CSA is the only one dedicated to work by artists with disabilities.

Arts Unbound provides opportunities to more than 300 art students each year and exhibits the work of 90 plus artists in their gallery and retail store. Their instructors are working artists, and their exhibition and career program is led by a veteran New York curator and gallery director. You can learn more at artsunbound.org.