SlingShot Alpha Art Studio and Gallery
Written and Photographed by Chuck Graham
On a recent visit to the SlingShot Alpha Art Studio and Gallery, I was instantly captivated. As soon as I stepped inside the studio, my eyes took in the diversity of artwork hanging on the walls and all the talented artists working diligently at their chosen craft throughout the inviting, brightly lit, airy studio.
All the art was unique, created by those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I wouldn’t have known that just
by admiring their work. Any disabilities were set aside while each artist worked on his or her current creations.
The SlingShot Alpha Art Studio and Gallery opened in downtown Santa Barbara in April 2013. The commitment to develop an art studio and gallery in Santa Barbara for artists with special needs was inspired by the artists and their art.
“We wanted our artists to have the same opportunity to create and sell their work as artists without disabilities,” says Sue Dumm, creative director at SlingShot. ‘We believed in the quality of the work and their ability to be committed artists. We believed the community would support a gallery that exhibits unique contemporary art.”
Dumm was right. When I toured the studio, there appeared not to be a single artistic medium that wasn’t in various stages of creation. By offering supplies for painting, drawing, print making, photography, fiber arts, ceramics and assemblage, SlingShot provides artists with an opportunity to learn about and create in many different mediums.
The studio and gallery were inspired by the artists and their art as far back as the late 1980s, when the Alpha Adult Day Program had a small art studio. The staff members all were artists, and realized their participants were drawn in by creating their own work.
“Alpha had the vision for an art studio and gallery that provided a place to showcase the talent of artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities years ago,” says Dumm.
“Our inspiration comes from the artists and their art. Art transcends the label of disability. It serves as an ambassador for changing the way people understand and appreciate artists with developmental disabilities. Our artists are proud to be a part of the SlingShot Art Studio and Gallery. We are proud to represent their art and find opportunities for them.”
There are currently 43 artists working at SlingShot. Each participant creates around his or her own schedule. Dumm said there are artists who attend SlingShot five days a week, and that their commitment to their art
practice is admirable.
The process for joining SlingShot starts with a tour and a conversation about possible interests and mediums. It’s not a drop-in studio; Dumm says the studio wants individuals to understand SlingShot’s expectations for commitment as an artist. SlingShot focuses on building relationships with each artist, and each artist has a contract with the studio representing his or her art for sale.
“It helps us discover an artist’s interests and ways of creating,” she says. “Most of our artists end up making art in several different mediums and find inspiration from one another.”
SlingShot (220 W. Canon Perdido St., Suite A, Santa Barbara) is part of downtown Santa Barbara’s 1st Thursday Art Walk on the first Thursday of each month. SlingShot is also open to the public from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. 805/770-3878, slingshotart.org.
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.