A Gateway to New Horizons
By Laura Notarangelo
The Gateway Arts Center is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1973 and is home to many artists who have mental, developmental, and/or physical disabilities. Located in Brookline Village, the Center features the Gateway Arts Studio as well as the Gateway Gallery and the Gateway Crafts Store. The Gateway Gallery opens its doors for the public to see completed art works related to various special event topics and exhibits. Artists who have their work sold at Gateway receive 60 percent of the profits, while 40 percent goes towards the supplies Gateway provides for their artists. Funded by numerous agencies, including the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Gateway is a service of Vinfen, a nonprofit human service agency. In order to be accepted into the Gateway Arts program, interested individuals must be screened and must bring a portfolio demonstrating their level of artistic ability.
Gateway hires teachers who have backgrounds in human services and are professional artists themselves, to work with the Gateway artists. Commenting on these facilitators, Mary Surface, a former Gateway artist for fourteen months who is currently on a waitlist to rejoin the program, adds that “the staff members are extremely respectful of all the artists, which only adds to the positive experience.” At Gateway, all art media are represented, including paintings, sculptures, and collages, Surface’s specialty. Instead of using something ordinary like magazine cutouts, Surface designs her own papers. There is also wearable artwork: for instance, jewelry, t-shirts, and tote bags. Gateway Arts encourages its talented participants to become professional working artists and to experience the financial and therapeutic benefits of creativity. Adds Surface, “At Gateway, I discovered new skills that I quickly developed and put to use.”
Surface says that she learned a lot from working alongside the other artists. Being a part of the Gateway community is something that really hit home for her: “My time spent at Gateway was a period of personal growth for me. Meeting so many wonderful, supportive people and watching them overcome their own challenges was very touching. Learning the messages and stories behind the artists’ pieces opened my mind more and made me appreciate their art. I fell in love with their art! ”
Gateway Arts gives people new opportunities for achievement that might otherwise have seemed impossible. The Gateway artists rise above their disabilities to create unique and extraordinary pieces of art that not only benefit the artists but also allow people everywhere to witness their triumphs. Gateway Arts is located at 60-62 Harvard Street in Brookline Village and can be contacted at (617)-734-1577, with more information available at www.gatewayarts.org.