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Amber Kops has lived her life dealing with the misconceptions others have about people with disabilities.
Ms. Kops, 22, said she and other members of the Lourdes College Disability Association saw the Community He(art)beats Exhibition, which opens today at the Toledo School for the Arts, 333 14th St., as an opportunity to share their struggles and hopes with others.
The art exhibition, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m., uses International Human Rights Day as a backdrop for its message of peace and human dignity. Lorna Gonsalves, founder of Human Values for Transformative Action, spearheaded the event.
Ms. Gonsalves, a former administrator at Bowling Green State University, said she sees the artwork helping people understand the lives and strife of others around the world and finding some commonality with them.
The art work was done by local art students and independent artists for several months. It's meant to draw on the experiences of what Ms. Gonsalves described as marginalized people - those who have been left out of society's mainstream or who face discrimination.
Ms. Kops, of Lambertville, said she has spina bifida, a defect where part of the spinal column is exposed, causing paralysis.
"We felt the exhibition was very important because of all the stigma involved with disabilities," said Ms. Kops, who also is president of the Lourdes College student body. "We want to be accepted and let people know we feel like everyone else, we live like everyone else, and we love like everyone else."
Members of the disability association decorated a wood cabinet with quotes and sayings on black paper describing the members' emotions about life and how they would like to be treated.
Inside the cabinet are pictures of famous people who lived their lives with disabilities.
Nate Masternak, 20, who has a painting in the exhibit, said the program gives him an opportunity to raise awareness and demonstrate how art can bring people together and shape opinions.
"Hopefully, everyone who sees this will recognize and remember the needs of so many other people and get the inspiration to make any contributions they feel are necessary," Mr. Masternak said.
Ms. Gonsalves said two international visitors will carry the messages of the exhibit to their corners of the world. Nasila Rembe, the chairman of human rights at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, and Rajagopalan Sampatkumar, founder and secretary general of the International Society for Human Values in Switzerland, will be on hand to talk to artists and community leaders at the exhibit, she said.
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