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The artwork’s range is phenomenal: from images of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to cartoon figures to a Greek goddess, from everyday folks to Santa Claus to medical responders.
They’re all part of “Heroes & Heroines,” a new exhibit jointly created by artists at Cedars, a Marin County nonprofit dedicated to supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and by teenage students from The Branson School in Ross.
The partnership is an expansion of Cedars’ community involvement, as is a second collaboration with Age-Friendly San Anselmo on the new “Let’s Wish Upon a Star!” program in which expressions of hope, resilience, unity or encouragement are hung on park trees.
Both projects have allowed Cedars’ participants to overcome limitations imposed by COVID-19. The organization, founded in 1919, was forced to find new programming to supplement or substitute its pre-pandemic residential and day programs, and new ways to keep its 200 participants — at the main residence in Ross as well as 10 group homes in Novato and San Rafael — occupied and happy since visitors haven’t been allowed at facilities.
Mary Sullivan, Cedars spokeswoman, explained that “It’s been challenging but I feel we’ve been very successful in transitioning. Many people we thought would never be on Zoom are now on it.”
The exhibit, mainly online and the culmination of a multi-event effort, runs through April 23 and contains 77 pieces by 35 Cedars artists and 21 Branson students. Almost all carry a price tag (up to $400, though most sell for less than $100) with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the individual artists, the rest bolstering Cedars programming.
The project began with Branson students creating videos in which they described why particular beings — real or imagined — were their heroes and heroines. Individuals from the two facilities then matched up on Zoom, Sullivan noted, where they chatted about “heroic qualities of themselves and the people around them.”
Students in Allyson Seal’s drawing and painting class at the private school, as well as other students, then created artworks — as did the Cedars artists who, according to the exhibit’s website, discovered heroes and heroines “in our friends and family, in the grocery store and even in the comics.”
Topping off the total effort, which has been in the works since January, was a superhero-themed Zoom dance party in which the artists dressed up (without actually going out and buying costumes). Dakota Zikeli, Cedars activities and volunteer coordinator who ran the virtual event, labeled it fun and funny.
The party was aided by yet another partnership with Best Buddies, a chapter of an international organization within Branson, whose volunteers have been teaching Cedars participants to do such things as play basketball and perform karaoke over the last six years.
The Best Buddies website said it’s dedicated to ending the isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by helping them “form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently … and feel valued by society.”
The Age-Friendly alliance, meanwhile, finds Cedars artists decorating wooden stars that will be placed on trees in San Anselmo’s Imagination Park on March 17, the one-year anniversary of Marin County’s first shelter-in-place order. After that, the public will be invited to add stars (using markers that will be provided).
That program, according to Sara Robinson, chair of the Age-Friendly task force, was inspired by two quotes — the first from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., “Only in the darkness can you see the stars,” and the second from National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, “There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it.”