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Artist uses disability to create motion in his art

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Equity in the arts is a primary focus of the work done with ArtMix, a non-profit aimed at supporting artists with disabilities. One staff artist says his disability is what makes his art unique.

Johnson Simon’s art lines a portion of the wall at ArtMix inside the Harrison Center. Born with cerebral palsy, he discovered his passion for art at eight years old during a physical. He says sometimes his condition doesn’t allow him full control of the brush that’s what makes it good.

Typically, Simon likes to paint on an easel. Although he’s a bit unconventional at times, he’s ok with that. It’s brought him success as an artist and book illustrator for former MLB player Carl Erskine.

“I like to be free without limitation.”

He nearly died at birth due to lack of oxygen. Being diagnosed with cerebral palsy is a miracle.

“To God, be the glory.”

Physically he can’t play basketball, football, or dance, but putting brush to canvas, he can transport himself there as he puts in hours of work inside his art studio inside the Harrison Center.

“There are sometimes when I’m not able to control my hand as I want to, but I like to become part of the artwork. You can see the movement in the artwork.”

He works with ArtMix, a non-profit that specializes in improving access to art for people of all ability levels. He’s showcasing his Indy 500-themed art this month. Outreach Events Manager Sarah Jane Bryant says Simon shows young artists the possibilities.

“Whether you’re nonverbal, use a wheelchair, have autism, or are on the spectrum, art really is the unifying piece that communicates beyond words,” Bryant said.

Simon says continued support has built his confidence over the years. He hopes to help build that confidence in others who find inspiration in his story.

“Keep the determination and you don’t give up. Just believe in yourself and keep the faith.”

Simon, along with other artists, will showcase work for First Fridays at the Harrison Center. He’s encouraging you to come out and take a look at his Indy 500-themed gallery.