Celebrating the International Day of People with a Disability

To celebrate the International Day of People with a Disability (3 December 2005) Grafton Regional Gallery took part in the State's largest program of cultural and sporting events for people with a disability. At the Gallery on Friday the 2nd of December at 10.30am a morning tea and Official Opening of Margaret Greig's exhibition, 'Brush in the Mouth' was held to celebrate this special day.

Margaret Greig is a brush in the mouth artist who lives with the help of her carer at Londonerry, NSW, where her studio is located. At the age of twelve Margaret contracted poliomyelitis which left her a quadriplegic, she developed her artistic ability by holding her brush in her mouth and has achieved outstanding results with this method. As a member of MFPA (Mouth and Foot Painters, Australia) many of her paintings are featured in their annual range of cards and calendars.

Two of Margaret's friends, Patricia James and Ruth Haewood, were in attendance at her opening to talk on Margaret's behalf as she could not get a carer to travel with her on the long journey to Grafton. They spoke of their friendship, Margaret's courage and of course her incredible creativity. Both ladies have artworks of Margaret's and have seen her work in her studio. They talked about her patience and control and how after many years Margaret has refined her arts practice.

Margaret has travelled extensively, both in Australia and overseas, with a group of other artists and has recently returned from a trip to Shanghai in China. Her trip resulted in a raised awareness of the needs of disabled people in China and a greater understanding of how they can be assisted to lead fuller, more satisfying lives. Margaret herself leads a very busy and fulfilling life, she is wonderfully cheerful with a great sense of humour and those meeting this gracious lady come away feeling inspired.

Phyllis Harding a local Grafton lady who is a paraplegic after being in a car accident thirty years ago, talked to everyone about her life and the highs and lows of having a disability. Phyllis is a very passionate person who believes in her strengths, one of them being able to talk to all sorts of people about disabilities. Phyllis visits schools and other youth groups within the Clarence Valley helping to make people more aware.

Being an artist herself, Phyllis was able to talk about her arts practice, which she said later "I've never talked about my art before, and it made me realise I do know what I'm doing, I'm not just playing with colour." This comment alone meant a great deal to the gallery staff as we believe there is an artist in each of us and sometimes we just need to have the confidence to say "I can do that."

The Special Guests and the fifteen people who attended the galleries IDPWD, Margaret Greig's Official Opening and morning tea were overwhelmed by Margaret's artworks and found the guest speakers to be very informative.

The Gallery has found that celebrating International Day of People with a Disability with a public program is a fantastic way to showcase art from a different perspective, and make the gallery more accessible to all.