Members of the Ottawa community came out to SAW Gallery May 25 in support of H’art of Ottawa, who celebrated their tenth anniversary with a silent auction and art show.

H’art is a local non-profit visual arts studio for adults with developmental disabilities, in which more than 40 artists participate each week. The artists, who created the works displayed Friday, gather to learn about, discuss, and make art—in doing so, they are able to contribute to Ottawa’s artistic community as well as show off their skills.

Artist Alexa Vanveen, 10-year-long member of H’art who said the group, said that during an average day the participants write in journals, sketch, or paint. She also said that “H’art is [her] life.”

While deciding how to celebrate their milestone anniversary, H’art was approached by long time supporter Bill Staubi, who pitched the idea for the event, which they called “ten pl+s ten.”

“They wanted to do something special because they were celebrating their tenth anniversary,” Staubi said. “We called the event ten pl+s ten. Let’s look back ten years at what we’ve accomplished and celebrate that, and let’s give people a hint of what we want to accomplish in the next ten years.”

In keeping with the theme, Staubi recruited ten professional local artists to work with the H’art artists in ten workshops prior to the exhibit. He said the visiting artists were surprised by the calibre of the H’art artists, who were knowledgeable about many different styles of art and art history, and also asked very critical questions.

Mayor Jim Watson and Laureen Harper, wife of the prime minister, gave words of encouragement in their speeches. Later, executive director Lin Roswell highlighted the achievements of the past ten years, and the goals of the next ten years in her speech.

“We have shifted from focusing on people with disabilities to focusing on people with talent,” Roswell told the full house.

“H’art of Ottawa would like to make a transition,” Staubi said. “Right now they are seen as a program for adults with developmental disabilities who happen to paint. Really, they want to be an art studio, whose artists happen to have this challenge.”

He said the ten pl+s ten exhibit portrayed the ability art has to break down stigma that people may have towards people with disability.

“Art can help people to communicate in different ways and understand each other,”  visiting artist Meaghan Haughian said.

“It’s our way of saying like it or not, we exist,” H’art artist Debbie Ratcliffe added. “Just look at our artwork. It speaks volumes.”

—Photo by Dave Scrimshaw