See Paintings, Photography, and More by Artists with Disabilities at the Frist Art Museum’s exhibition "The Power of Resilience"

a colorful quilt made of squares of fabric photos of Friend's Life participants
Graham, Bradley, Nic, Galo, Randle, Sean, Sam, Grant, Rebekah, Isabel, and Sarah. Powerful As I Am Community Quilt, 2023. Relief prints and silk screen on fabric. Courtesy of the artists

Entering the Frist Art Museum, visitors are now greeted by an inspiring exhibition in the Conte Community Arts Gallery featuring works by more than 80 adult artists with disabilities who are served by five social service agencies in Middle Tennessee. Titled The Power of Resilience, the exhibition includes individual and collaborative artworks. It will be on view in the always-free Conte Community Arts through April 1.

These creations are all themed around the notion of resilience—the ability to withstand, adjust to, or recover from life’s difficulties, often by overcoming fear, isolation, and insecurity. “By focusing on the artists’ unique abilities and boundless creativity, this exhibition promotes growth, healing, and empathy among all people,” says exhibition curator and community engagement director Shaun Giles.

Guided by teaching artists, groups at

made works of art that address themes of identity, visibility, healing, and more.

a mixed media piece showing a nature scene of a river cutting across the canvas with leaves, trees and forests on either side; there are different patterns on the canvas and many autumn colors
Jan Batts, Ashley Cooper, Samantha Decosta, Araya Favez, Mary Gadsey, Cindy Gossett, Tamira Halman, Shamblin Kiehbarth, Daniel Porter, Raymond Kinnard, Rita Nyland, Marilyn Richardson, Sara Tidd, and Jayla Vaughn. Mother Nature, Fall, 2023. Mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of the artists.
blue and white flowered or patterned fabric with dark blue fabric under it appears to represent rain and flooding, with swaths of brown fabric appearing to represent mud
Hope McKee. Nashville Devastation, 2023. Fabric collage. Courtesy of the artist

To create greater community and personal self-awareness, AbleVoices encouraged its photographers with disabilities to reflect on and express their challenges, interests, and strengths.

In a collaborative project, participating artists from Borderless Arts created an emotionally expressive abstract work focused on both devastation and revitalization using fabric shapes, textures, and colors.

Friends Life Community artists constructed a collaborative quilt of symbolic images sewn alongside their own portraits to celebrate both community and individuality.

Responding to the themes of human nature and mother nature, the paintings and collages made by Healing Arts Project, Inc., represent interpretations of personal resilience, regeneration, and the four seasons.

In three projects, participating artists from Metro Parks disABILITIES created layered paintings, torn and reassembled watercolors, and mixed-media works to symbolize post-traumatic growth and recovery.

Torn scraps of paper with watercolors pasted onto a black background
Bria Spurlock. I Have a Good Mommy and a Good Step Mommy!, 2023. Watercolor and ink on textured paper. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Organizations

AbleVoices is a nonprofit arts organization whose mission is to amplify the voices of people with disabilities through the powerful medium of photography and, in doing so, foster more inclusive communities. They teach photography to youth and adults with disabilities as a means for self-expression, as a creative outlet, and for disability advocacy. Their flagship program, Photography for Self-Expression, is offered in schools, community organizations, and virtually.

Healing Arts Project, Inc. (HAPI) provides artistic opportunities for persons in mental health and addiction recovery to promote healing, community awareness, and inclusion. HAPI exists to fill a gap in recovery and rehabilitation services by providing free art classes taught by professional artists, art exhibition and publication opportunities, and outreach events. These opportunities help participants express and externalize their personal struggles as they create art to tell their stories. HAPI serves approximately five hundred individuals in mental health and addiction recovery each year.

The Metro Parks disABILITIES Programs provides individuals with Intellectual and Developmental disABILITIES (IDD) and their families and caregivers opportunities for sports, arts, outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and social interactions. It is the mission of the Metro Parks disABILITIES Programs to provide every citizen of Nashville and Davidson County with IDDs with an equal opportunity for safe recreational and cultural activities.

The mission of Friends Life Community is to provide opportunities for teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities to grow personally, develop socially, and be active members of the community. Their Immersive Weekday Program provides person-driven support through group learning and community-based classes. Participants choose classes in life skills, service learning and employment, and visual and performing arts. The process of self-expression and discovery is a way for these artists to communicate who they are and what is important to them. They connect with others through sharing their artwork in exhibitions and working collaboratively. Friends Life artists are professional artists and inspire others who work alongside them.

Borderless Arts Tennessee (formerly VSA Tennessee), established in 2001, is a nonprofit organization committed to inclusive and accessible arts programs for people with disabilities, enhancing educational curriculum, enriching creative expression, empowering career development, and encouraging community engagement. The organization works with people of all ages with any form of disability. Borderless Arts Tennessee is the current Governor’s Arts Award recipient for arts leadership.

Editor’s Note: You’ll see each of these organizations represented throughout this issue of Breaking Ground, in both the articles and in the individual works participants submitted for us to feature. We are so proud to have such a strong and interconnected community of artists with disabilities in our state.

Author Bio: Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. Information on accessibility can be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors ages 18 and younger and for members, and $15 for adults. For current hours and additional information, visit or call 615.244.3340.