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Johnson Simon finds purpose through his art

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Johnson Simon discovered his artistic talent in first grade, when classmates would remark that drawing as well he did was difficult, yet he made it look so easy. It was a point of pride for Johnson, and it also gave him a sense of hope. Johnson has cerebral palsy and wasn’t able to move as freely as other kids. He wanted to dance, wanted to play football, but his body wouldn’t allow it.

What his body did allow was artistic expression, which Johnson, 29, has continued with into his residency at the Stutz Artists Association. His art, along with that of other Stutz artists, will be on display at an open house April 26 and 27 at the Stutz Business and Arts Center. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Stutz Residency Program, which began in 1997 and has given more than 30 emerging artists a year of studio space and mentoring.

Johnson said his artwork is a combination of abstract and realistic, and that because of cerebral palsy, it’s difficult to replicate a brush stroke. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

“If someone sees my artwork, they can see it’s a Johnson original,” he said.

Because of his physical limitations, Johnson’s art focuses on movement. He studies dancing, walking, swimming and even sky diving and then tries to translate those movements to his canvas. Johnson said it’s as though he’s doing those things, but through art.

Johnson said art has given him a purpose. It helped him work through depression and doubt, and, as a bonus, he’s also good at it.

“I’m not just someone who has a disability,” Johnson said. “I’m an artist. I’m someone who’s gifted with a wonderful talent.”


Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.


When: 5:30-10:30 p.m. April 26 and 1-5 p.m. April 27

Where: Stutz Business and Arts Center, 212 W. 10th St.

Cost: $16 advance tickets at the Stutz business office, 1060 N. Capital Ave., Suite C200, or at stutzartists.com. Tickets are $20 at the gate. Tickets are good for both days.

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