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Unaffected Vision

Apr 11, 2014
by Sarah Williamson

For many, it was the first time picking up a camera. Twelve physically and intellectually disabled students from The Arc of St. Johns in St. Augustine began a project to share a piece of their lives through photography.

This past December, their images formed the exhibit, “Unaffected Vision: Free to See Beautiful,” at Flagler’s
Crisp-Ellert Art Museum.

The program began in the summer of 2011 when Flagler College alumnus George Gallardo, ‘12, and the college’s Photography Club partnered with The Arc of St. Johns to teach a group of students in Arc’s art program how to capture their world on film.

A grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida supplied each student with his or her own camera. After Gallardo graduated, I helped continue the program, teaching and shooting hundreds of images in the last two years. The students took photo excursions all over St. Augustine including the Flagler campus, Fort Mose, Fort Matanzas, St. Augustine Beach, The Alligator Farm and The Lightner Museum.

In 2012, one of the artists, Thomas Carey, was awarded an individual artist grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida in order to purchase a professional camera with lenses and continue his love of photography.

Last spring, Sylvi Herrick, a member of the Board of Trustees of The Arc of St. Johns and an adjunct instructor at Flagler, was told about the project and was blown away by the collaboration and the students’ art.

“The images themselves were very solid,” said Herrick, recalling the first time she saw the students’ work. “And it was easy to let them be as they are.” Herrick, with years of experience in curating shows, developed the exhibit at the Crisp-Ellert.

“This is a celebration and can really change how people see disability because art is what connect us all,” said Herrick.

The importance of the show was simply to recognize the artists’ ability to seek beauty in a way that was unaltered and flawless. No agenda. Just what they saw. 

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