Artistic expression the real draw at gallery opening

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For twenty-five years, Promising Futures Inc. has been in the business of caring for those with severe autism or other communication and behavior disorders through its residential and vocational programs. Funded by the San Diego Regional Center, Promising Futures takes a progressive approach with one of their programs in East County—an art studio for their clients.

For twenty-five years, Promising Futures Inc. has been in the business of caring for those with severe autism or other communication and behavior disorders through its residential and vocational programs. Funded by the San Diego Regional Center, Promising Futures takes a progressive approach with one of their programs in East County—an art studio for their clients.

At the studio on Lexington Avenue in El Cajon, clients who are developmentally disabled come once a week to express themselves through art with a number of mediums; clay, watercolor, sketching, crafts and jewelry. Successful and impressive, the collective body of work produced under art director Joshua Bellfy and day program director Nicki Burnworth merited public display, so on Friday, May 30, Promising Futures premiered “Emerge.”

Bellfy, who Burnworth said brings out the expressive ability of their clients “in leaps and bounds,” has a background in the arts and the social service. A graduate of USD, he teaches clients based upon their individual needs and what each person can accomplish. Up to 60 clients had pieces represented at the art exhibition.

“The goal is to expose everyone to as many artistic mediums as possible, to provide everyone with that experience,” said Bellfy, who developed curriculum for its clients.

All of the artwork at the exhibition was available for purchase, with the majority of money generated by the sale going back to the artist. From beaded bracelets, to paper mache baseball bats, paintings of presidents and sketches of Elvis Presley, what is on the minds and in the hearts of the clients comes through in the art they made. Every piece on display had a story.

Some of the artists on display are also active in the community of the developmentally disabled. Jonathan C. is involved with People First, an advocacy group for the developmentally disabled. Another artist named Scott runs the Promising Futures snack bar day program facility. Judging by the variety and quality of the art work, there is no denying that Promising Futures made its own art form out of pulling and fine-tuning the different talents and skills from each individual.

“Everyone is individually gifted. Everyone can do something, and can learn to do more,” said Bellfy.

Such is the case for Alex K., who knows what is like to be a client but now works with Promising Futures as an art assistant. One of the many pieces Alex has in the show is a painting of a Ming vase, with American themes (a guitar, for one) worked in. Alex’s interest in China, or his memory of seeing the Northern Lights when he lived in Alaska represents the complexity and diversity of the gallery’s collection.

He works in several mediums with extreme attention to detail, as he discovered a love for art through Promising Futures. His face was sprightly as he described the meaning behind his featured work. 

More than the joy he gets from creating art is helping other clients create their own.

“I not only work on my own projects, but I’m helping other clients become probably the best they can be with their art,” said Alex. “I can express myself in so many different ways, from a happy thing, to something sad, all of my emotions. This is my passion, it makes me happy of who I am.”

Every artist at Promising Futures has a right to feel the same. The gallery is more than just a place for vocational training once a week; the art is more than a combination of materials. “Emerge” is a triumph of expression for those who had stories and ideas just waiting for the right teacher and blank slate.

If you missed this art exhibition, there is another event on August 30 at Promising Futures Art Studio at 145 E. Lexington, in partner with Sophie’s Gallery. The exhibition will feature self-portraits.

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