The power of art strikes a chord in Able ARTS’ new show

While most organizations are fully immersed in the struggle to continue thriving virtually, Able ARTS Work may be the first to celebrate the adjustments, offering a boost to the morale of students, staff and just about anyone involved with the organization.

With a nod to pivoting its services from in-person to online at the start of the pandemic, Able ARTS Work, formerly Arts & Services for Disabled, Inc., announced that “Can’t Stop the Beat,” an art exhibition where students collaborated on a series of paintings on musical instruments, will open this Saturday, Nov. 7 at its temporary gallery space at 2nd & PCH.

Courtesy Able ARTS Work

“The Able ARTS Work family hasn’t missed a beat,” the organization shared in a statement. “Through this exhibition, we celebrate the resilience of our students, our team and our organization as a whole.”

The combining of art on guitars—the guitars donated by Yamaha as part of its Yamaha Cares Upcycle Program—and drums speaks to the nonprofit’s two main services, art and music therapy. Within a week at the start of the pandemic, those in-person sessions were transitioned online, with instructors quickly adapting their lesson plans to offer to students virtually. Staff have also organized virtual exhibitions and performances, and expanded the organization’s ArtBeat Radio, consisting of music and podcasts, to more platforms, including Spotify.

A guitar in Able ARTS Work’s new show, “Can’t Stop the Beat” opening Nov. 7. Courtesy Able ARTS Work

Guitars painted by artists Carlos Arredondo and Rudy Austin are included in the show, as well as a bright yellow, sunflower-ed guitar, which Long Beach students—Matthew Campano, Aaron Francis, Julianna Gallardo, Cristina Mariotta, Tran Nguyen and Summer Mariotta—collaborated on by drawing sunflowers, then screenshotting their drawings to be printed out and collaged on the instrument. Campano added the final touches of bugs and glitter.

“You know, we thrive doing the things we love and our students come to the program to create and grow, and when you’re cut off from that, it affects your health,” said Kristy Glass, Director of Community Advancement for Able ARTS Work. “It affects your mental health, your physical health, and the fact that they have a connection back to this service that they treasure, they’re still growing and progressing in goals. And we may have had to change goals a little bit for them, but they’re still receiving services and connected to a community outside of the home that’s just their own.”

Artist Carlos Arredondo with his guitar in front of Able ARTS Work gallery at 2nd & PCH. Courtesy Able ARTS Work

The gallery itself has been essential to the organization’s sustained shift during the pandemic, offering students even more of an incentive to create, knowing that their artwork will be shown in a physical space. The gallery, which opened in September, was donated by 2nd & PCH to Able ARTS Work to use through the end of December.

“It has been a place where students have a purpose for what they’re working on,” said Glass. “New projects have come about so that they can get them to the gallery and earn their commission. Whereas before, without that we’d be relying solely on our online gallery and our online Etsy shop. Here, we can still connect and share our mission, and share our students’ artwork.”

Guitar by artist Carlos Arredondo. Courtesy Able ARTS Work

“Can’t Stop the Beat” will open on Saturday, Nov. 7 and can be viewed via livestream starting at 10 a.m. on Able ARTS Work’s Instagram @ableartswork and Facebook page, with musical performances by Jesse Cantlay and Christina Ebersole. Those who attend should know only five people will be allowed in the gallery at a time; masks are required.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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