Gallery U benefits those with traumatic brain injuriesRobert Lach’s recent installation art piece “American Tourister” features deconstructed suitcases suspended from the ceiling, separated by floating nests and surrounded by hanging toy birds. Although not obvious at first, the unusual work was inspired by Lach’s childhood experience of growing up with a disabled parent.
Affordable artAll the pieces in Gallery U exhibits are priced under $500 in order to make art more affordable for people of average means, says Red Bank Gallery U coordinator Robert Langdon. Many artists dropped their prices specifically to be part of the galleries’ shows because they believe in the organization’s mission to help those with brain injuries, he says.
Artist Eileen Kennedy of Red Bank submitted a watercolor painting of a women looking into a mirror to the Red Bank Gallery U’s show “Awakenings.” The painting was significantly smaller than her normal work in order to be able to keep her asking price under $500.
“I think it makes sense in this economy to offer cheaper art,” Kennedy says. “It gets people to collect who might not otherwise do so. I think that is great, and I am happy to support it.”
Both locations also serve as vocational training programs for clients of the Universal Rehabilitation Institute. The institute employs its clients in the galleries doing inventory, working the register, responding to requests and performing whatever other jobs they are able to do. The clients are paid for this work. Working in the art galleries gives those with traumatic brain injuries a sense of purpose, Langdon says.
“We want to give them a sense of being back to work,” he says. “Most rehabilitation programs just sit people with brain injuries in front of the TV. We want to give them something different.”
Finding something different to stimulate and help heal those with traumatic brain injuries is also the purpose of the institute’s art therapy programs. Along with providing beautiful art to sell in the gallery, art therapy can help the clients communicate and deal with their disability, Langdon says.
“Art therapy can be used to release anxiety and emotions,” Langdon says. “You would be surprised by how people react when they create something, especially those who have been through the issues our clients have. They don’t always think they can do it, so it is amazing to them when they create something.”