GRACE, Grass Roots Art and Community Effort began in the 1970’s when Don Sunseri moved to Vermont to “get away” from the competitiveness and hustle of the New York City art scene. Working as a dishwasher at the St. Johnsbury Convalescent Center, Don had the idea that a “well of untapped creativity might be lurking in the halls and common rooms around him in the nursing home.”
With permission from the center’s administration, he began offering workshops—providing art materials, encouragement and a supportive environment, and letting the residents explore on their own. He describes having “discovered a new sense of authenticity by witnessing the emergence of these grassroots artists.”
His impulse, and those early workshops with residents, formed the foundation of what would become GRACE—a now forty-year effort to discover, develop, and promote self-taught artists throughout Vermont.
Amazing GRACE celebrates the works of more than twenty-five current and past artists supported through GRACE’s hundreds of annual workshops in nursing homes, adult day centers, mental health agencies, or on-site at GRACE’s Old Firehouse facility in Hardwick, Vermont.
While certain elements of continuity run throughout—the role of pattern, a sense of space, a visible joy of drawing—the myriad of styles and mediums employed by the artists reflect the deeply personal, and often autobiographical, nature of the works.
Sunseri believed that each of us is in possession of a well of experience. “To draw from that well is to draw from the source of all art,” he said.
“We feel a sense of common cause with the GRACE philosophy around an emphasis on, and curiosity of, an individual’s personal experience,” explains Ned Castle, the Vision & Voice Gallery Coordinator. “To draw from that well—the knowledge of everyday living—is to draw not only on the source of all art, but on the source of all folklife, too.”