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Museum of Modern Art exhibit shines a spotlight on artists with disabilities

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NEW YORK — An exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art is shining a spotlight on artists with learning and other disabilities.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reports, their works help them thrive by communicating who they are and how they overcome their challenges with art.

Christopher Chronopoulos, of Hell’s Kitchen, is living an artist’s dream. His work is in the world famous Museum of Modern Art.

He showed Carlin one of his pieces, explaining, “His name is Fenikkusu, and he’s a fire spirit that resides within me … It’s almost like a phoenix that’s in me that, every time I’m, like, down and out, it just brings me back up.”

The exhibit “I’m a Monster, I’m a Flower, I’m Everything at Once” features Chronopoulos and other members of YAI, a group of artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Members of YAI pose inside the Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibit “I’m a Monster, I’m a Flower, I’m Everything at Once” features members of YAI, a group of artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

CBS2


“They diagnosed me with PDD … It only triggers me when I’m upset, like when I’m really sad or angry,” Chronopoulos said. “It comes out like a lash out. It comes out as I don’t want to listen.”

He says it is through meditation, tai chi and his art that he is able to achieve the right balance.

“Does it take you out of yourself and put you in a world that helps?” Carlin asked.

“It gives you that feeling that you can do practically anything,” Chronopoulos said.

Artist Jimmy Tucker says he’s dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I wash my hands a lot or like I check the door a lot in my house,” he said.

Tucker, who lives in Chinatown, says he gets lost in art in the best possible way.

“I think art is therapeutic. For me, it’s like whenever I’m having a bad day or negative thought in my head, I just pick up the pencil and I just start drawing and I let all that anger or anxiety just flow onto the paper,” he said.

In addition to his artwork, Tucker designed a t-shirt featuring some original characters.

“A lot of the characters I design are superheroes with disabilities, so I base the four main characters I made off things I deal with like autism, learning disability, shyness or OCD,” he said.

The leader of this group for YAI is Priscilla Frank.

“I see how talented they are and how passionate they are, and I believe in their work with all of my heart, and it’s just incredible to see the pieces that we are making in our scrappy studio elevated to this iconic, legendary, sacred space. where so many of the artists fell in love with art in the first place,” she said. “We’re all, like, really humbled and blown away. We make art in the space all day, every day, so we really wanted the artist to, like, adopt a creative alter ego … to find a different creature inside of them and try to make art as that creature and to really embody that creature.”

“To have the courage and the ability to put yourself out there through your work and really express who you are through making … We’re just really honored to be able to share their work with the public,” said Theresa Rodewald, assistant educator for the MoMA learning and engagement department.

The exhilarating, creative exhibit continues through Sept. 30. For more information, click here.

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