Pensacola Magazine

Empowered Expression Exhibit Opens at PMA

The Pensacola Museum of Art is showcasing its latest exhibition, Empowered Expression: Giving Dimension to Disabled Voices, providing members of Pensacola’s disabled community with a space to demonstrate and share their artistic abilities.

The Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA) and The Arc Gateway have partnered to organize the exhibit, which features the work of artists with intellectual or developmental disabilities that have been working with The Arc Gateway to develop their artistic skill set.

The Arc Gateway is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that seeks to provide the best possible life experiences for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agency offers disabled clients a variety of programs in which they can learn specific skills, gain new experiences and get involved in their community if they choose to do so.

“The Arc Gateway currently serves 1,200 children and adults each year. Of that number, about 250 adults spend up to 30 hours per week in one of our multiple adult day training centers,” CEO of The Arc Gateway, Missy Rogers, said. “Each of our centers is slightly different and offers tailored services to those who choose to participate. Every program has a goal of teaching vocational skills that may one day transfer to the community.”

All of the artists included in the exhibit are participants of The Arc Gateway’s programs and chose to attend specific art sessions to expand their artistic abilities.

When sourcing artwork for Empowered Expression, the agency provided their clients with an opportunity to learn all about art, try their hand at creating artwork themselves and discover what type of art they enjoy.

The featured artists created their artwork in an art studio with an instructor and all of the tools necessary to express themselves through artistic creation; they had the opportunity to experiment with an array of different art mediums. The exhibit will feature a variety of art styles and mediums, including everything from illustrations and paintings, to ceramics and more.

Empowered Expression is much more than just beautiful and intriguing artwork on a wall or on display; it is an opportunity for disabled individuals to grow, learn new skills, explore passions, express themselves and gain confidence.

“There are significant benefits [to art]. Art has been proven to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. It allows them a positive form of self-expression that is socially acceptable,” Rogers explained. “It also gives them a tool through which they can understand and express their emotions and those of their peers. Further, through the creative process, our clients can enjoy a sense of accomplishment and pride in their abilities, and if the artists choose to sell their pieces, they then receive payment for their efforts, enhancing their independence and self-determination.”

In addition to the benefits for the artists, the exhibit is also promoting representation and inclusion within the arts. These artists are representing the disabled community and their work shows that no matter one’s abilities or disabilities, anyone can explore their passions, express themselves and contribute to their community. The Arc Gateway believes in these abilities as well, both in the art world and beyond.

“Our agency strongly believes everyone has the ability to contribute to the community in some manner, should they choose to do so. This could be through a workplace, volunteering at a nonprofit like The Arc Gateway or even through creative endeavors like the pieces that will be showcased in the upcoming exhibit at the Pensacola Museum of Art. Each adds meaningful purpose to the life of the individual and builds a better, vibrant community for all,” Rogers said.

As an agency, The Arc Gateway focuses on highlighting the abilities and talents of its clients to show both the clients and the world that the capabilities of disabled people are limitless.

To view and learn more about some of the artists participating in the exhibit, check out The Arc Gateway on Facebook, where the agency has shared the backgrounds, stories and photos of some of the participating artists.

Empowered Expression: Giving Dimension to Disabled Voices opened on January 13 and will be on display at the PMA through February 23. If you want to check out the exhibit for yourself, you can stop by the PMA at 407 South Jefferson Street in downtown Pensacola. The museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday, 12 pm to 4 pm on Sunday and is closed on Monday.

To learn more about The Arc Gateway, visit For more on the PMA or the Empowered Expressions exhibit, visit