Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts

People with intellectual and development disabilities created their own works of art that are on display at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.

The artist featured in a newly opened exhibition, titled “Beverly McInver: Full Circle,” at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art inspired the creation of a second exhibit that highlights the talents of people with intellectual and development disabilities.

Scottsdale Arts Learning and Innovation wanted to explore an aspect of McIver’s personal life: she is the caregiver for her older sister Renee, an adult with I/DD.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts partnered with the Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services (STARS) and The Opportunity Tree to curate “What Makes Me Me,” an exhibition of poems, paintings, acrylics, collages and ceramics created by individuals with I/DD. 

“It was a natural thing to do because at Scottsdale Arts Learning and Innovation, we promote what is going on at SMoCA,” said Laura Hales, curator of learning and innovation at Scottsdale Arts Learning and Innovation. “We saw this as an opportunity to shine a light on that aspect of Beverly McIver. In a sense, all of these artworks in the gallery are inspired by Renee.” 

Members of STARS and The Opportunity Tree were broken into small groups and worked in three workshops.

 “We worked with professional artists who led the workshops for this and they were all really wonderful at adapting the projects so that everybody in the room could do them well,” Hales said. “We had accessibility in mind because even within that group there were different levels of accessibility that needed to be addressed.” 

What came next fulfilled a need that oftentimes is glossed over for individuals with I/DD. 

“It’s self-advocacy and it is a powerful communication,” Hales said. “During one of the workshops, one woman who didn’t talk at all in the beginning was positively chatty toward the end of it as she became more comfortable and started enjoying herself. I could see that she had gained an increased sense of herself, which was the primary goal of the exhibition.”

The exhibition offers a look into the interests and hobbies of the creators. 

“In the work, they communicate who they are as individuals,” Hales said. “They’re making their own decisions. They’re talking about themselves and what their interests and hobbies are.” 

Not only did creating the artworks aid members of STARS and The Opportunity Tree in expressing themselves, one workshop helped the artists keep their memory sharp.

“In the poetry workshop, it was really interesting because it was customized for adults with I/DD and memory loss,” Hales said. “This is a growing issue because people who have I/DD are living longer and they have an over 50% higher chance of getting Alzheimer’s.” 

“As the curator for this gallery, I always try to steer away from a student show where it looks like the same assignment,” Hales said. “I wanted a varied look to the gallery that kept the number of participants in each of the workshops small so we have better results for everybody.” 

Hales could not have been happier with the results and the platform that the exhibition has given to a population that is often  forgotten. 

“There are three important things that this show tries to do,” she said. “It’s a platform for self-advocacy, it allows this population to express themselves and it allows people to get to know this community better. We all know younger folks who have I/DD but we don’t know the older folks because they live in group homes or with their parents and they’re a bit forgotten in society.” 

Hales hopes that people experience Beverly McIver: Full Circle and “What Makes Me Me” together to gain a full understanding of I/DD and how art works as a form of self-advocacy. 

“This has raised some awareness about this community along with Beverly McIver herself,”  she said. “When people go into SMoCA to see the exhibition and they see the paintings that relate to Beverly and Renee’s relationship, they’ll have some more interest and understanding while looking at those.” 

The “What Makes Me Me” exhibition will remain on display at the Center for the Performing Arts through May 4; an opening reception will be held at the center on Tuesday Feb. 22, at 11 a.m.

“Beverly McInver: Full Circle” will remain at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art until Sept. 4.  



What: Opening reception for “What Makes Me Me.”

When: 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Where: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd St.

Cost: Free.


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