The Jessica Park Project
Sponsored by the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, The Jessica Park Project is a multiyear educational endeavor to study and promote the art of Jessica Park. Park is a nationally renowned artist with autism who lives with her family in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is largely self-taught, but has benefited from the intervention of several art teachers and from the guidance of her father, David Park, and her mother Clara Claiborne Park, who wrote two books about her exceptional daughter: The Siege (Little, Brown 1995 edition) and Exiting Nirvana (Little, Brown 2001).
To date the Jessica Park Project has produced four exhibitions involving Jessica's work. A traveling show, The Art and Life of Jessica Park, that premiered in 2008 has been displayed at a number of colleges and universities in the Midwest and New England. In 2012 an exhibition, Visions from the Edge: The Artists of Pure Vision, featured Jessica Park along with ten other artists from the New York Studio/Gallery Pure Vision Arts.
In 2008 the Jessica Park Project published Exploring Nirvana: The Art of Jessica Park, a 98 page book with 86 full color illustrations of Park's art. Along with 26 catalog entries by MCLA students, the book also contains essays from experts in the fields of autism and Outsider Art. Oliver Sacks wrote the book's foreward. Exploring Nirvana has received critical acclaim and has been distributed through bookstores and online to national and international readers.
Forthcoming in 2013, A World Transformed: The Art of Jessica Park is the latest publication from the Jessica Park project. This 48 page, fully illustrated art biography of Park reveals an artist whose autism and creativity work together to create unusual and extraordinary works of art. Written to appeal to a younger audience and to middle and high school educators, this volume seeks a broader base of readers and a deeper understanding about the social impact of artists on the autism spectrum. Dr. Pamela Rodgers, Director of the Shield Institute Pure Vision Arts Studio, sums up the book's intention: Many of the artists [on the spectrum such as Jessica Park] have led amazing lives. The sheer power and uniqueness of their expression adds greatly to our humanity and helps society advance by breaking down negative stereotypes and misperceptions about people with autism and other disabilities.
Currently, The Jessica Park Project is transitioning into The Center for the Study of Outsider Art. Using Jessica Park's remarkable life and art as a model, the Center will research and highlight other artists with disabilities, as well as explore marginalized community-based art such as Folk and Native American art. The Center will also reach out to the local community (Good Purpose Gallery and the College Internship Program; Cultural Access to the Arts; the Bennington Museum) and interface with organizations such as Pure Vision Arts in New York, the Groden Center in Providence, RI, and the Folk Art Society of America, whose mission embraces the creation and exhibition of Outsider Art.
Project Director, Tony Gengarelly, Ph.D., Professor
The Railroad Crossing in Hoosick Falls, #2 Nighttime, 1988