The Art of Becoming Independent


painting by William Eley of Becoming Independent

Communicating by making pictures must be among the oldest, most primal human instincts. For people born with severe developmental disabilities, the realm of art-making sometimes provides the only tangible outlet for the depths of thought and emotion. I studied at RISD and the Art Institute of Chicago and have taught and lectured at art and design colleges, but I have never witnessed such focused dedication to the craft of picture-making as demonstrated by the talented people at Becoming Independent during my recent visit.

Cami Weaver, dynamo CEO and twenty year career veteran of Becoming Independent, led the tour of the organization’s labyrinthine 26,000 square foot campus, stopping frequently for intimate chats with the people who participate in BI’s diverse wealth of services. Cami is passionate about “breaking down barriers and de-bunking myths that people with disabilities have limits and are different from people without disabilities.” Among the organization’s extensive offerings are Community Living Support, Adult Education, Employment Services, Family Resource and Advocacy, and Transportation Services. Cami clearly approaches each client individually and manages to evoke a feeling of extended family for both the BI staff and its over one thousand clients.

Judging from the work hanging on the walls of BI’s galleries, the organization is more than just the largest non-profit in the North Bay, it is ultimately one of its best art schools. To me, Becoming Independent serves as a model of innovation worth emulating by any business or organization whose goals are community inclusion and good citizenship. I look forward to spending more time working with Cami to develop potential collaborative projects for Wowhaus, and encourage everyone to arrange for a visit that is guaranteed to inspire.

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