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Artist Matthew Murphy Discusses Work with Developmentally Disabled

April 25, 2019

After having to reschedule due to inclement weather, artist Matthew Murphy visited campus on Wednesday, April 17 to speak about the LAND Studio and Gallery, a nonprofit day habilitation center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that he co-founded in Brooklyn, NY, as well as pursuing ones passions through many different modalities, such as, sculpture, painting, sketching, photography and weaving.

Raised in upstate New York, Murphy got the break of a lifetime when he earned an art scholarship to study abroad in Paris at the Parson's Institute. It was soon after that he began working with adults with learning disabilities at the Fernald School for Development.            

“I liked to give people the ability to do something they wouldn't normally be able to do, like those who can't grip a paintbrush, or having a wheelchair be a part of the artwork” he said. “I worked with a physical therapist who helped implement different innovations to the artist.”

>Throughout the years, Murphy started showcasing his own artwork in any open spot that would allow it, including coffee shops, salons, and even nightclubs. “It doesn't matter where your art is seen, it's just important to get your work out there,” said Murphy. Throughout the 90's, Murphy's art was viewed all over the globe, including Montreal, New York City, and Vienna.

When asked by a member of the audience what style of art he produces or with what medium, he responded with a myriad of answers. “What do I draw? Everything that's around me. I really enjoy landscape painting, like in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I started taking photos, writing and keeping sketchbooks at a very young age. I like to use humor in my art, but there's also a lot of anxiety. You can see past emotional rifts, like looking at it over a lifetime. It’s important to reflect on that in art.”

This special understanding of art combined with emotional empathy lead to the founding of the LAND Studio and Gallery, which opened in December 2003, with an aim to teach life skills through the modality of art to those with developmental disabilities. The primary focus of this program is create growth and make it look easy so the art can come naturally.

The art created by the 16 artists in the program is then showcased in the up to four shows a year at LAND’s home base in Brooklyn, as well as at other galleries, such as pop ups or museums. “A major reality of being a working artist is you can have full intent on getting your work out there but you're only as strong as the foundation holding you up,” said Murphy.

Since its inception, the LAND Gallery has seen its fair share of celebrity involvement.  Everyone from SIA, Robin Williams, Beck, and Mos Def have visited to gallery space in Brooklyn, some even making personal requests. Spike Lee has commission six paintings from one of the LAND artists, all Michael Jackson themed. Art from some of LAND’s artists has also been seen Whitney Museum, Paper Magazine, J. Crew, Facebook as well as the Museum of Modern Art.