In a press release last monthThe Tierra del Sol Foundation announced the opening of the “Taking Up Space” exhibition at the exhibition of the same name Tierra del Sol Gallery. The exhibit, which will run from November 11 to December 23 at the Gallery’s new location in West Hollywood, is in its third year.
According to Tierra del Sol, “the inaugural exhibition invites each artist from Tierra del Sol’s Upland and Sunland Studio Arts programs to contribute a single 18×12-inch work of any medium” adding that they are “working with artists on submissions for this third annual group show [and the exhibit will] provides Tierra’s artists with an opportunity for growth and celebration of their shared goals.” The purpose of the project and exhibition is to “empower artists to derive meaning and pleasure from creating work that is legible and has an impact on its own community.”
Tierra del Sol Foundation CEO Rebecca Lienhard told me in an email interview late last month that the exhibition’s origins can be traced back to 2019, when a space opened in Los Angeles focused on “extending of gallery programming and connecting the Foundation’s artists with a global audience.” Over the years, the Gallery has presented artists at the Felix Art Fair, Frieze and NADA Miami, as well as in collaborations with companies such as Amazon and Netflix. All proceeds go directly to the artists and the Foundation—who can then provide studio space, materials, and career support.
“Gallery Tierra del Sol has propelled countless artists into the world of contemporary art,” Lienhard said. “With the move to the new and larger Gallery space in West Hollywood, the possibilities are endless.”
Lienhard, who has worked at the Tierra del Sol Foundation for 33 years and has a master’s degree in special education with an emphasis on moderate to severe disabilities, was adamant in telling me that advocacy for the disability community will always be “a political rights movement ». In addition, he said that people with disabilities are no different from anyone else, saying they want to be “included and valued for who they are and what they contribute.” The Foundation recognizes and supports this sentiment to the fullest extent.
“Having worked alongside thousands of people with disabilities during my career, my staff and I have experienced first-hand what these people can achieve when given equal opportunities. Seeing them succeed has been both a gift and a motivation for us, their peers and their families,” Lienhardt said of the importance of embracing disability inclusion. “At Tierra del Sol, we believe that a strong and vibrant community is one in which all its members contribute their strengths and advantages for the common good. Tierra’s vision is for all people to live productive and personally meaningful lives as neighbors, colleagues, contributors to the economic, political and cultural vitality of the community, regardless of the concept of disability.”
When asked how technology plays a role in the Gallery’s shows, Lienhard responded by saying that reliance on technology has been especially important in the last three years of the pandemic. Technology has proven vital not only to creating the art itself, but also to maintaining connections and finding support. Logistically, Lienhard said the Foundation has developed a database called Art Logic. It tracks the catalog of tracks made by more than 150 artists spanning decades. The software tool, Lienhard told me, has been invaluable in documenting the artists’ work as well as chronicling how “their work has evolved over the years.”
The impact of technology, however, ultimately benefits the artists themselves.
“Artists have become advocates for themselves through social media, and for those who are not verbal, these media give them a voice at the table to share their work,” Lienhard said.
In terms of feedback, Lienhardt told me that society is in “a very reflective and critical moment between the intersection of disability, race, and ethnicity.” The disability community, she continued, has historically been marginalized based on prejudices and preconceived notions about whether people with disabilities are capable of being competent and meaningful contributors to the world. On an individual level, Lienhard told me she feels a responsibility to “continue to try to be a voice for the marginalized” as a leader of the Terra del Sol Foundation. It is life changing for so many.
It is imperative that society “tolerate nothing less than equality for all.”
“We have witnessed, personally and professionally, that when one person sees another person for who they really are, for the gifts they bring to the world, that our communities have reached a richness and strength that is unbreakable, even in the face of injustice” , Lienhard said of the intersection of disability and art. “Similarly, when a person looks at a work of art and falls in love, that is precisely the moment when the person stands equal to all other artists, regardless of the concept of disability. It is these moments that lead us to our daily efforts.”
Looking ahead, Lienhard was succinct in sharing her vision.
“I hope one day all the lines of difference wash away and the only thing we are left with is the beauty of all the faces that greet us every day as we help each one find a place of belonging and a valuable contribution to the greater world,” he said.