20 January 2022

Something special happens when disability support and art come together.

Image: Kevin painting a house on a large canvas.

Art has the power to give every person a voice and a way to express themselves, regardless of age, gender, language or disability.

For Kevin, who receives Supported Independent Living (SIL) and Support Coordination services from Life Without Barriers, art is not only a favourite pastime – he is using his creative talents to raise money to benefit other people.

From Saturday 5 February, Kevin and his support team will be hosting a special exhibition at The Shellharbour Club called ‘Art Without Barriers: Hosted by Kevin Burke’, which will raise funds for Life Without Barriers’ Aged Care services and the Baptist Care School Breakfast program.

However, Kevin hasn’t always been involved with the arts. In fact, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and his other great love of watching football was no longer available, that he decided to pick up a paint brush.

“Kevin’s interest in painting started because he couldn’t go out as much due to the pandemic and the football wasn’t on TV anymore,” explains Kevin’s Key Worker at Life Without Barriers, Lucy McKnight. “Inspired by his twin brother, Peter, who also enjoys painting, Kevin decided to give it a go.”

Image: Canvas painting of a parrot on a colourful background.

With that, Kevin’s support staff actively supported him and his housemates to experiment with artistic activities in a meaningful way during COVID-19 lockdowns. But as Kevin’s confidence and skills developed, his interest in art quickly evolved from a fun group activity to pass the time, to more serious aspirations.

“The team worked with Kevin to set up an artist workstation in the corner of his living room, where he now has an easel and special drawers, where he stashes his stencils that staff have cut for him to use on his canvas,” says Casey Gray, Life Without Barriers’ Systems Support Coordinator.

At his own artist workstation, Kevin primarily creates paintings on canvas using acrylic paints, as well as glitter and pencils at times. As for what inspires him, Kevin says “Animals, my house, the sea, going fishing… I just feel like it, I love it. It’s something to do. It makes me feel very good.”

Now with his sights set on hosting his first exhibition, inviting friends and members of the public, Kevin is eager to sell his artworks and put the money towards Life Without Barriers’ Aged Care services and the School Breakfast Program run by Baptist Care.

“Kevin has always been a very caring, generous person. He is very compassionate and feels great empathy towards people who are in difficult circumstances,” explains Lucy.

“From watching the news, he saw how the pandemic has affected the elderly and wants to help them.”

“I wanted to have an exhibition to raise money for them, maybe they can buy new walkers,” says Kevin. “I hope everyone else does the same thing and donates money.”

For more information about the ‘Art Without Barriers’ exhibition and how to donate, please contact 0436 802 035 to speak with Kevin and his support team.

The way Kevin has been supported to pursue his creative talents is a testament to his support staff and their dedication to ensuring his goals and choices drive the support he receives.

As Casey says, “the team say they simply bridged the small gap between what Kevin could do for himself and what he needed support with, but to me it’s the mark of a support team truly in tune with the needs and wants of someone with clear interests, talent and aspirations.”

Image: Kevin sitting at home wearing a football jersey.

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