Innovative Wheelchair Art Connects All Ages and Abilities
Ten-year-old Augie Webster is a bright boy with severe physical limitations as a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. After attending an art exhibit for skateboard artist Sean Greene, Augie used his communication device to tell his mother, Kathy Webster, “We can make wheelchair art.” Augie’s brother and sister enthusiastically supported the idea and Wheelchair Action Art was born.
Working together, the Webster family has developed a technique for creating beautiful contemporary art in a collaborative manner. With the wheels of Augie’s chair serving as the “brush,” his brother and sister assist in creating the art following his ideas and direction. This innovative method allows for the art to be created with minimal mess and cleanup.
Since its development, the Websters have expanded the concept beyond their family to include all ages and abilities. With the encouragement of family friend Steve Gurney, an eldercare advocate and the founder of Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook, the Websters have partnered with residents at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads, a Continuing Care Retirement Community inFalls Church,Va. “The art studio and culture at Goodwin House was tailor-made to explore making this art an intergenerational activity,” says Gurney.
The first session with residents of the retirement community confirmed that it was a perfect match. The residents were able to use their mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, rollators and scooters, to create different compositions. In addition, the intergenerational engagement with Augie and the Websters was enthusiastically supported by the residents and staff. Lynda Smith-Bugge, art center coordinator at Goodwin House, says, “The whole intergenerational aspect of this project is fantastic.”
Their partnership with Goodwin House has proven to the family that this concept can be replicated elsewhere. Kathy Webster is currently working with other community groups and settings to bring the joy of art to other individuals ranging in age and ability.