Many adults in the U.S live with intellectual and developmental disabilities; in fact, an estimated one-fifth of our country’s population is disabled, with only around 18 percent of these persons being employed in 2016 (Bureau of Labor). Career and vocational resources are in short supply, particularly in Illinois, which has consistently ranked among the bottom 5 states in the nation.
As a result, many individuals with disabilities are employed in light labor, assembly, or other menial tasks. Most day programs for adults with disabilities don’t allow for a choice in the work they do, or provide professional development opportunities that allow them to master new skills. The founders of Arts of Life recognized this severe lack of opportunity for the disabled community, and, in January of 2000, began constructing an alternative model.
"ARTISTS WITH DISABILITIES SHOULD NOT BE DEFINED BY THEM" -COLE FOX, NORTH SHORE STUDIO ARTIST
Arts of Life was established to provide a collective space for adult artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities to expand their creative practice and strengthen their leadership. Since then, it has grown to become an established presence within greater Chicago’s creative arts community. Today, Arts of Life serves over 60 artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a programming model based on leadership, professional development, and artistic fulfillment. John Cowart and the rest of the Giving Room team relate to this type of goodwill through creative process, making the organization an obvious choice.
Creative energy and compassion have always been on the forefront of John's work, as well as Giving Room's mission. As the owner and artist of Cowply, a successful fingerboard line, John distinctively embroiders his own sense of empathy and positivity in everything he produces. Interested in the teachings of artwork, Cowart particularly admires Arts of Life for the opportunities they give to those who are looking to create and express themselves. All proceeds from the John Cowart line of skateboards, clothing, and items sold through our shop will be donated to the Arts of Life - and the opportunities they continue to provide for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.