A picture is worth a thousand words: For artists with disabilities, that idea can be especially poignant.

The Hennepin Gallery will showcase through April 25 the work of 32 artists from the Art Speaks program, which is run by the Twin Cities nonprofit Rise Inc. Art Speaks gives opportunities to disabled artists to develop their talents and display their work.

The well-visited gallery is in the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. The county’s Department of Human Services and Public Health is sponsoring the exhibit.

Five years ago, Rise introduced the Art Speaks program as a way to help people with disabilities express themselves through art, director Danelle Griner said.

“The process of art offers opportunities for participants to reveal and express sides of themselves people may not have seen before,” Griner said. Art can be especially helpful for people with disabilities in conveying deeper emotions, but their access to art materials is often limited, she said.

Weekly classes in painting and mixed media held at six of Rise’s metro-area locations allow artists to practice their craft and learn more about creating art, Griner said.

Rise helps people with physical or mental disabilities find employment and housing; and by offering opportunities like Art Speaks, it also advances their professional and personal goals.

“We’re always looking for really good spaces in the community,” Griner said of the decision to approach the county’s gallery, which has hosted artwork from Art Speaks before. Griner said the high-traffic atmosphere of the gallery was a big draw.

For its part, the county agreed to host the exhibit because Rise’s mission is closely aligned with the type of assistance offered by the county’s Department of Human Services and Public Health, Hennepin County spokeswoman Diana Houston said.

Artists have had their work exhibited through the Art Speaks program at many venues, including the University of Minnesota, local coffee shops, suburban art shows and libraries.

Admission to the Hennepin Gallery is free and open to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Government Center, A-level, 300 S. 6th St.


Elizabeth Hustad is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.