In 1993, what was then known as the Matheny School and Hospital in Peapack tried out an idea to see if people with disabilities could create fine art, assisted by professional artists who would act as their facilitators.
Matheny's president and medical director at that time, Robert Schonhorn, and Dr. Gabor Barabas, launched a program called Arts Access. What started off as a small pilot program has blossomed into a thriving arts program that encompasses painting, digital art, sculpture, dance, choreography, poetry, creative writing and drama.
The 20th anniversary of Arts Access — Full Circle 2013 Reflections — will be celebrated from 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center on the Matheny campus at 65 Highland Ave. in the Peapack section of Peapack-Gladstone.
A visual arts exhibit, curated by Scott Beil, a former facilitator whose paintings and drawings have been shown in galleries in New Jersey and New York City, will be on display in a reception in the gallery beginning at 3 p.m.
"It is my deepest intention to respectfully highlight the strong caliber of work that our artists have quietly been creating upon this little hill in Peapack over the past 20 years," Beil said. The visual arts exhibit will be followed by a multi-media stage presentation featuring 14 original works in dance, drama, poetry and creative writing.
Matheny recognized last week at awards dinner hosted by Somerset County
The Arts Access Program at Matheny was one of seven winners this fall of Somerset County's Excellence in the Arts awards. Matheny's teachers, art facilitators, staff, board members and volunteers who foster talent in people with disabilities and help them express themselves through the arts were recognized last week at a dinner at the Twin Brooks Country Club in Watchung.
The awards program honors individuals and organizations that show exemplary leadership and dedication to the fine and performing arts in Somerset County.
The Arts Access program also received a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Full Circle celebration. U.S. Congressman Leonard Lance (R-Dist.7) co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, will serve as honorary chair and will speak at this Sunday's event.
The Matheny Medical and Educational Center is a special hospital and educational facility for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities. Many of the artists in the Arts Access Program cannot speak and do not have control of their hands and arms. But their minds are intact, and they use unique methods that enable them to overcome their disabilities and express themselves in multiple artistic disciplines.
Gold sponsors of Full Circle are Provident Bank and James and Judith Finn; Silver sponsor is The Hartford; Bronze sponsors are the Angeletti Group, Angelina and Steven Brown and Shoprite of Hunterdon County. Food and beverage sponsors are: Café Azzurro and cocoLuxe fine pastries, Peapack; Gladstone Tavern, Gladstone; 3 West and Urban Table, Basking Ridge; and Village Office Supply, Somerset.
Admission to Full Circle is $30. All funds raised support the Arts Access Program, which enables individuals with disabilities to fully express themselves in the creative arts, according to informath from Matheny.
For more information, or to order tickets, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 260, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.