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Artist Constructs Sculptures Using the Strength of His Senses

Disability is No Barrier to Creativity

Joe Colunga is a 28 year old artist who is blind and takes weekly art classes at Santa Barbara Art Works, a downtown art studio with a primary goal of helping aspiring artists with disabilities create, show, and sell their work. Although Joe can’t see an image to draw or paint, his imagination and ability to visualize his subject matter through auditory instruction is extremely sharp. Joe’s Art Instructors have adaptive lessons and techniques that make the art process compliment Joe’s creative abilities. For example, Joe likes to construct animal sculptures using a paper-mache method. The tactile layers of paper and paste in Joe’s hands, supports his strengths in determining placement and design. Studio Manager, Jacob Allio, explains the process, “We gave Joe a toy animal to touch and then helped guide him along, as he began to form the sculpture. He went back and forth, feeling the animal’s shape, listened to our voices, and adjusted his work accordingly.”

Santa Barbara Art Works is part of the UCP WORK, Inc. family of services, and offers employment skills for artists, like Joe, in building their art portfolios and commissioning their work. When asked about his inspiration, Joe started his love for art in ceramics class at Dos Pueblos High School. “I started by feeling the clay through my fingers and it just took off from there,” Joe stated. To view Joe Colunga’s animal sculptures and other artists’ work, visit the Santa Barbara Art Works upcoming Spring Arts Collection:

What: 1st Thursday, “Into the Wild”, Arts Exhibition & Reception

When: Thursday, March 7th, 2019; 5:00 - 8:00PM.

Where: Santa Barbara Art Works, 28 E. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

What: In collaboration with Downtown's 1st Thursday Events, Santa Barbara Art Works presents, “Into the Wild”, a Spring Arts Collection of sculptures, paintings, and drawings of flora and fauna, and abstract works of art by fifteen resident artists with disabilities. Join us for wine, hors d’oeuvres, and live guitar and lyrics by Conner Cherland, featuring a blend of styles from Americana, to Indie/Folk, to Soul music.


Santa Barbara Art Works mission is encouraging creativity and professional growth for aspiring artists with disabilities. While building disability awareness and inclusion, Santa Barbara Art Works hopes to break down barriers for people with disabilities, so that its participants are encouraged everyday, working towards finding their voice and employment in the art industry. Santa Barbara Art Works is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00am - 4:00pm, and welcomes artists from the community to collaborate on exhibits and teach classes. In addition, we provide art studio space on a membership plan for local artists residing and working in the Santa Barbara area.

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