The beginning of peace

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Susan's "Michelle - The Angel of Inspiration," Mixed Media, 28" x 17.5"

Artists with developmental disabilities from the nonprofit organization L.A. Goal and its subsidiary, Inside Out Productions, promote peace through their work at the Skirball Cultural Center.

By Austen Tate / Special to The Malibu Times

“Peace starts with communication between people. Understanding starts with one person communicating emotionally, thoughtfully and honestly. This is the beginning of all peace,” said Marcy Carsey, TV producer and partner of one of the most successful independent production companies in the world, Carsey-Warner.

Carsey, who resides in Malibu, will be hosting the reception, “Meet the Artists,” and art auction for L.A. Goal’s – Inside Out Productions’ third gallery opening, PeaceWorks, at the Skirball Cultural Center May 19.

L.A. Goal’s mission is to provide opportunities for its members, all of whom have developmental disabilities, to increase their independence and realize their full potential through a structured program of educational, vocational and recreational activities. Inside Out Productions is a subsidiary of the nonprofit L.A. Goal organization and employs 21 artists who have autism and other unique challenges.

PeaceWorks is an exhibition of work by the artists, which “provides a unique opportunity to understand how the artists have come to understand that the first step on the path to creating peace in the world is to make peace with one’s self,” according to a release by L.A. Goal – Inside Out Productions.

Susan Baerwald, vice president of Inside Out’s Board of Directors, introduced Carsey to the organization. Carsey said she became involved with the group through sharing the love of outsider art with her good friend, Baerwald.

“I’ve always loved it, their art is special and became dear to my heart,” Carsey said. “The kind of work these people support is wonderfully [exceptional]; small, terrific endeavors. L.A. Goal is an outstanding example of communication in its purest, simplest and emotional form.”

During a recent visit to Inside Out’s studio in Culver City, artist Lisie (last names of the program’s artists are withheld to protect their privacy) paints a treasure box that, she said, represents “who we are,” referring to all members of Inside Out.

The figures she draws on her treasure box are of “cats and dogs and birds all getting along,” she said.

“It is important [that] all people can get along,” she said. “People have choices of who they hang out with, positive thinking is good to be around.”

Being labeled as disabled does not seem to bother Lisie; she has found “a place of refuge,” she said.

For one year now, inside their Culver City workplace, Inside Out’s employees work three- to four- and a half-hours a day, three days per week and commute independently by driving or walking, or group together. Here, they explore art, music, drama and sports. A living skills class is applied along with comprehensive counseling and music therapy. In a course of a day they work on projects combined with specific themes, research art books, sew and produce self-generated work.

This is a home for artists where they can work together as a community, ages ranging from 18 to 60. Everyone is a student at Inside Out and the organization is family oriented.

“The need was great for this population,” said Margaret Goodenough, art director and supporter of the cause for 14 years. “They are my family. It is my life and has opened me up to realize beauty is in the unexpected.”

Different mediums of fine art are taught to members through the history of artists they research. The components of art and sewing are reinterpreted with wall hangings, quilts, patchwork clothing and 3D images. Members learn how to maintain households, relationships with people, and are given the freedom to express themselves through their art.

“Art is passion,” painter Susan said. “Colors represent feelings. My favorite color is red … [it] is strength, power and energy. The color yellow is happy. Orange is bright and pretty.”

Many people involved in the media world have come to visit Inside Out’s studio. Actors Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer became students themselves.

“Anybody who sees this art is drawn in to how wonderful it is,” Carsey said. Baerwald helped L.A. Goal artists produce their first book “Disabled Fables,” a compilation of stories rewritten to tell the stories their way.

As to where she sees programs like L.A. Goal and Inside Out Productions going, Goodenough said, “There is a demand for more creative spaces globally, and there is room for growth and expansion.”

All proceeds from the Meet the Artists reception and art auction will directly benefit L.A. Goal’s Saturday Art Classes and Inside Out Productions.

Tickets for the reception on May 19, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., are $125 and are available through L.A. Goal at 310.838.5274. The exhibit will be shown for three months in the Ruby Gallery located at the Skirball Cultural Center at 2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles. More information on the exhibit can be obtained by calling the Skirball at 310.440.4500.