Here at the Daily Living Aids blog, we are always looking for ways to stay active despite a disabling condition. Sometimes finding physical activities you can perform doesn't necessarily entail "working out" or traditional exercise routines. Sometimes it involves something as simple as painting.

Recent developments

Lately, painting and art have only grown in popularity in the disability community. An art center for the disabled in rural China was recently featured in depth in a fascinating article for ABILITY Magazine. It tells of the transformational power of art for three painting students in Fujian Province, two who experienced traumatic injuries and one who has dwarfism.

Meilan Xue, for instance, is a stroke survivor who spent almost a decade rarely leaving her house, with little to occupy her time other than sketching pictures. A year ago, she was brought to the International Art Education Center for the Disabled in Fujian and has greatly improved both her painting technique and her physical condition. She has gone on to earn a substantial amount of income from selling her paintings online.

In other current events related to disability and the arts, just this year the website and newsletter Disability Arts International was launched in collaboration with the British Council, the UK's council for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The newsletter features the work of disabled and non-disabled artists, especially in the field of theatre.

Earlier developments

However, the healing force of art is no new discovery. One of the most well-known painters with a disability in the last century was the controversial Mexican figure Frida Kahlo, who resorted to painting after a violent automobile accident that caused her chronic pain her whole life. Her work expressed her traumatic injury and methods for coping, and it continues to inspire to this day, with a widely acclaimed movie made about her life released back in 2002.

Woman in wheelchair painting

In the early 2000s, Princeton-based artist Tim Lefens started a movement to empower disabled artists in his book Flying Colors: The Story of a Remarkable Group of Artists and the Transcendent Power of Art, which was the basis for establishing several art programs for the disabled in non-profit institutions and universities accross the nation. He invented the idea of assistants who serve as "trackers" and "act as neutral arms, executing the vision of the physically challenged through laser-guided tracking and other exacting technologies." Read more about these techniques at the Artistic Realization Technologies website, as well as Mississippi State University's website for their outreach art program at the T.K. Martin Center.

Painting is a timeless activity requiring physical exertion. Whether you paint with your hands or, like some disabled artists, your mouth or your feet, painting is a way to exercise not just for exercise's sake. The fun and creativity involved is good for the body and the soul.

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