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Gateway Arts marks 50 years of empowering artists with disabilities

May 13, 2024
  • Gateway Arts artist Betty Antoine shows off her hand-drawn overalls at the "Beyond" exhibit opening on May 8. Photo by Molly Potter

Gateway Arts’ celebration of its 50th anniversary is continuing this month with an exhibit that spotlights its younger artists.

The Brookline nonprofit organization, which provides art training, studio space and other support to people with disabilities, was founded in 1973 during the years of nationwide deinstitutionalization, when people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities were being released from state hospitals in large numbers.

“A lot of very thoughtful, brave people stepped forward and said these folks need housing, employment and places to have a social life,” said Greg Liakos, Gateway’s director, who has been with the organization for two years. “Gateway’s founders said they deserve a creative life too, access to the arts and culture and creative expression.”

Today Gateway, now part of the health and human services nonprofit Vinfen, works with 75 to 100 artists every week to learn new skills and create art in a professional studio and store on Harvard Street.

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The program started in a basement in Brighton and moved to Brookline in 1980.

“Animating the mission during that time has been the idea that art and creative expression is a particularly powerful way for people with disabilities to assert their place in the world, have a voice, and be in control of their own future,” Liakos said.

To celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, Gateway has put on a series of exhibitions, starting in October.

The first, “Beginning,” celebrated the work of artists who have been working with Gateway for a long time, including two who were in the studio in 1973 when it first opened.

The second, “Becoming,” was a snapshot of Gateway’s current cohort of artists.

The current exhibition, “Beyond,” featuring work by early-career artists, opened on May 6 and runs through June 21 at Gateway’s gallery at 62 Harvard Street.