The NGO Chimes Israel – which assists people with special needs – launched an art exhibition this month featuring dozens of works of art produced by special needs individuals, open through next month in Tel Aviv.

The exhibition at the Zionist Organization of America House displays the drawings and paintings of people who participate in the organization’s art workshop, as part of Chimes’s activities in advancing employment opportunities and occupations for those with disabilities alongside works by famous Israeli painters.

“Like any of us, they have abilities,” executive director of Chimes Israel Jorge Zimmermann told The Jerusalem Post. “We help them express these abilities, such as art for example.”

“We believe that it is very important to give them – people with disabilities – an opportunity,” he added.

“They are diamonds in the rough, we polish them.” Zimmermann explained that the art workshop, which started some three years ago, was initiated by an NGO volunteer who was also a professional artist.

“He volunteered with what he knew, which was art, and he actually found that people here had developed really impressive drawing skills,” he said. “It takes a long time, though, until they can find their inspiration and develop their own style.”

The workshop, which takes place between once and twice a week, includes around 11 participants and has turned into a workshop involving other forms of art such as drama, puppet shows and documentary filming.

“You can see in the exhibit that they each have their own style and subjects that touch the heart and have to do with the issue of their personal distress, or their dreams,” Zimmermann continued, “It’s part of the expression of the artist.”

He also pointed out that for some of the artists, drawing and painting are the only ways to express themselves.

“We have an artist who is both mute and deaf, but the drawings are the whole essence of the communication between his internal world and the outside world,” Zimmermann said.

“His drawings are so strong, interesting and beautiful, all at the same time.”

Zimmermann said he believes the exhibit will give people with disabilities “a chance to also touch the heart of another and make a difference.”

“They have an opinion in an artistic way, a very special perspective on the world that we live in,” he said. “Sometimes I think that maybe they see it in the right way, maybe we are the ones distorting it.

I hope the public in Israel will pay attention to it.”

“There is no difference between a ‘normal’ artist and an artist with a cognitive disability,” the curator of the exhibit, Doron Polak said in a statement.

He added that the display, which will close on May 18, “creates an interesting and exciting dialogue between the talents of artists with disabilities and professional Israeli artists who sell their pieces.”

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