Norwalk artist featured in 'art showcase for people with disabilities'

Cary Ashby • Apr 17, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Norwalk resident Ben Todd was featured in the first-ever All Abilities Art Expo.

Todd was one of 15 artists in the recent, one-day event in Fairlawn that showcased the talents of artists with physical and mental disabilities. The guests — which also included children — came from Akron, Bolivar, Canton, Cuyahoga Falls, Lakewood, Northfield, Strongsville and Wellington.

A self-taught artist, Todd said he is “bipolar with psycho-affective disorder.”

“I’ve been doing this since I was 25. I just started getting into it,” he added. “I try to do the best I can with my illness and stuff, but I’m a pretty good artist.”

The idea for the event came from Alicia Hopkins, who is originally from Norwalk. Her name may be more familiar as Ohio Miss Amazing Sr. Miss 2018. Besides being featured in the Reflector in the fall, she was the subject of a Cleveland.com story about the art show.

“I'm also an artist, author and disability rights advocate,” said Hopkins, now of Stow.

“The All Abilities Art Expo was an art showcase for people with disabilities — both physical and mental disabilities. It was a way to let people with disabilities share (their) artistic talent with the community. At same time we brought organizations and resources into the venue to make sure artists left with resources in their hands to go beyond this one-day event,” said Hopkins, who graduated from South Central High School.

Committee members Chelsea Dye and Michael Stanley, both of Akron, worked with Hopkins to prepare for the art show.

Dye, who is blind, created all-Braille text for the showcase, which included Braille cards on each table for blind people who may have attended.

“We did have a few. Also (we) had (an) ASL interpreter for anyone (who is) deaf. We chose a wheelchair-accessible building as well. There was even a sensory corner for anyone (who is) autistic,” Hopkins said.

Stanley did some public-relations work. 

“I helped him create some business cards,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins shared why she created the All Abilities Art Expo.

“I wanted to do something to give back to my community. I am an artist as well (and) I use a wheelchair for my mobility needs. I found it was hard to find events that met my needs. I knew need went beyond me. I wanted to create an event was accessible and friendly for people from all walks of life,” she said.

Todd submitted work in March to be in the art show.

“Each artist had guidelines for submission. They had to bring two canned food items to be a part of the showcase. While it was mainly a showcase, some artists had work for sale. Each artist had a six-foot table to display their artwork. They were able to bring business cards or materials to help market themselves as an artist,” Hopkins said.

Many artists worked on new projects during the show.

“Ben was nervous. I think once he got there it went well,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins assisted Todd with creating a Facebook page, known as “Hac Benjamin,” which features his artwork.

“(There is) so much potential and talent in hidden and often masked by disability,” Hopkins said. “Often it's hard for people to put their art work out there. I'm very proud of all the artists who were brave enough to share their work with the world.”

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