It is one of our society’s incredible features - that we give space and appreciation to the many renaissance-men among us who channel their brimming expressionism into passionate strokes on a canvas. It’s been a win-win situation, as while they get to give an outlet to their creative genius, we get a peek into their fantastical sort of takes on the world. This phenomenon was observed by a pair of adults, parents to a specially-abled child, who noticed the power art could potentially wield over the souls of those cloistered by stigma, owing to their physical and mental disabilities. They thus decided to use art as a medium to facilitate, heal and empower differently-abled persons. The budding artists at the 25-year-old Om Creations create magnificent works of art – which are up for sale, today onward.
Art is central to the lives of adults suffering from Down syndrome and is the primary medium by which they prefer to share their thoughts, feeling and emotions, rather than enunciating them by way of interaction with others. Several studies have also linked art for specially-abled individuals to therapythat helps in developing their cognitive and motor skills. It helps them improve focus, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem and conjure up a sense of achievement.
Om Creations started when a few parents of specially-abled young adults, who truly believed in the idea that art can heal the soul, wanted to harness the skills of their children to, in turn, help them become economically-empowered and contribute to the family’s income. This was in 1991, a time when the awareness about even acknowledging the special needs of the differently-abled – let alone employing them – was unheard of. In this scenario, Om creations started with four young adults and a portfolio of 15 products.
“Art is a psychotherapeutic service that provides major benefits, like occupation and relaxation, thus reducing the requirement of psychiatric and medicinal help in their lives,” says Dr. Radhike Khanna, Founder Trustee, Om Creations Trust.
On the teething troubles Om Creations faced, Radhike says,
The early years of Om Creations were tough. Slow sales, low awareness, lack of space, there was a need for trained hands and volunteers. But it only made the core team more resilient and ready to find innovative solutions to achieve our objective.
In 1996, Om Creations moved to King George Memorial Compound in Mahalaxmi. Here too, challenges loomedlarge. But after an arduous struggle, a lively kitchen was setup for catering and hospitality activities, and a separate section for arts and craft activities. The organisation even identified and employed highly-skilled and sensitised staffwho teach art to the beneficiaries.
Taking off with merely four beneficiaries to employing over 56 confident, gregarious and ever-curious adults, currently, Om Creations operates out of three centres in Mumbai. It manages a portfolio of more than 200 products, including paintings, gift bags, wallets, scarves and food, such as bread and other baked goods, chocolates and made-to-order meals, and employs women and female children with Down syndrome exclusively.
“Women have always been marginalised, and for a specially-abled one, they are further dismissed,” says Radhike. To further the cause of giving flight to the women’s dreams of independence and dignity, the women are paid a stipend as well, for their creative contribution, ensuring empowerment and a sense of fulfillment in its truest sense, to help them anchor their families. And as a result of the confidence they gain through Om Creations, being equipped with a skill as well as a perspective on how the professional world might function, many of them have even gone on to be employed by prestigious companies.
“The products created at Om Creations are not only of superior quality but also provide a therapeutic impact on its creators. The day-to-day making of a diverse range of products is a creative healing therapy for the beneficiaries,” says Radhike.
Currently in their 25th year, they have organised an art exhibition, ‘Art Trisomy 21’. The exhibition will be held on September21 and 22, at Coomarswami Hall, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Kala Ghoda. Specially-abled young adults of Om creations will put up a collection of 175 paintings and a variety of sculptures.
Trisomy 21 is derived from the term 'Down syndrome.' The art event, therefore, has been conceptualised to showcase their transformation over years of training by the organisation. “Each piece depicts and reveals a story, a feeling, an expression and an underlying dream which Om Creations is striving to make true,” says Radhike.
The proceeds from the exhibition will be used for the functioning of the NGO and the development of its patrons. “Each painting sold will make a significant difference, not only to their finances but also their morales. All you have to do is shower your love and support,” concludes Radhike.