Recently, I read the beautifully illustrated picture book by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet, Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott . It opened my eyes to what life was like for a person with Downs Syndrome born in 1943, 20 years before I was born. Told by her twin sister, this book let me feel what it was like for Judith to be placed in an institution. Without her twin, Judith would have stayed at the Columbus, Ohio instituion for the rest of her life. But that didn’t happen because Judith had an advocate – a twin who missed her and fought for her to become her legal guardian. Finally, at age 42 the sisters were reunited in Oakland, CA. Luckily, in 1974, the Creative Growth Art Center was founded as a nonprofit art studio for artists with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities. Judith was able to attend art classes there once she moved to California and the remained of the story shows how she began to express her creativity using fiber materials and found objects.
As I read this book, I thought of my friend, E’s daughter, M, who was born in 1999 with Downs Syndrome. M’s life however, was very different from Judith’s. As I scroll through E’s facebook page, I see so many happy grins by M as she poses during public school events and dinners with her many friends and as she dresses up for Halloween, which seemed to be a favorite holiday! Thanks to E’s advocacy and laws passed to ensure people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, M lived a happy life.
I encourage you to look for this book at your local library or independent bookstore. I encourage you to be an advocate for all, especially those like Judith and M with Down Syndrome. Judith’s creatvitiy was described as having “made something as unique as she is”. So glad Judith came out from being hidden away in an instituion. So glad M was able to shine bright for her whole life.