Hutton House presents… Reframing Abilities
Faye Simmons story
by Janice Richmond
At age 13, Hutton House studio artist Faye Simmons thought she could never have a baby.
The reason? She couldn’t do up her own shoelaces. She fretted and fretted.
“I don’t have very good fine motor skills. My handwriting is crap. I’ve never been able to tie my shoelaces. And I practiced for many, many, many, many hours. And I had lots of OTs (occupational therapists) showing me how to tie my shoelaces, and do you know what happened? I found shoes without them,” she laughs.
Now, at age 33, Simmons still laughs about it. “There was no other reason, no other reason. At 13, I thought I was the smartest thing since sliced bread, and I thought Oh my gosh I can’t have a baby because I can’t do their shoes up. There was no: I don’t have any money, or I don’t have a job, it was the shoelaces that had me.”
Simmons has Cerebral Palsy. According to the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, CP ‘literally breaks down as cerebral = "of the brain" and palsy = "lack of muscle control." In other words: a lack of muscle control due to an injury to the developing brain. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a medical diagnosis that professionals use to describe a wide variety of conditions. CP is an umbrella term and it is important to remember that every individual who has CP is unique.’
While her fine motor skills may have let her down with shoelaces, they haven’t stopped her from being an artist. Faye is part of the Hutton House Studio Art program. Every Friday the group of artists with various disabilities meets to paint, socialize and learn. The program is holding an exhibition at The ARTS Project in downtown London the last two weeks of March.
Simmons’ specialty is adult finger painting. She doesn’t need to handle a brush to create beautiful flowers and trees and other images from nature. She has tried different techniques such as crackle paint and bubble paint. Using her dainty fingers she enjoys feeling the different types of paints on her skin. To crackle paint she uses layering and a thick gel to create a chemical reaction allowing for different colours to show through. For bubble paint, she uses shaving cream to mix in with the acrylic paint, which creates a textured work of art.
“I look forward to Friday afternoons. I’ve made friends of participants and staff. It gives me something else to do where you can talk to people about something different. You’re not just sitting around having a coffee and saying ‘oh how was your day,’ you’re actually doing something together. It’s nice. I was very proud of myself in the last show that I sold absolutely everything.”
Simmons is the only finger painter in the class. While she has learned different painting methods, she believes she has also taught the group some things. With a great sense of humour, Simmons doesn’t get overly stressed about life. She believes she’s taught people how to be more relaxed around wheelchairs. She started using hers full-time when she was about 15 years old.
“I want to get the message out there that people in wheelchairs, or with just physical disabilities can use the Hutton House program, not just people with developmental or learning disabilities.”
She likes the easy going atmosphere of the Studio Art program and the freedom to work to your own individual strengths. “When I was in high school you had to draw a can multiple ways, like a can of Coke, I wasn’t interested in that, I was never good at that. I like to paint. But we always had to draw things like grapes, really boring stuff,” she laughs.
With about 160 pieces of art on display, Hutton House presents…Reframing Abilities will definitely not be boring.
Please join us from March 21st through April 1st at the ARTS Project, 203 Dundas St., downtown London. The opening night reception is Wednesday, March 22nd from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
For more information visit The ARTS Project website at www.theartsproject.ca
Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life-enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities, and interests.