Community Arts & Culture

2014 Rockin' The Spectrum

In 2014 the Town of Chapel Hill commissioned artist, photographer, and teacher Barbara Tyroler to develop a site-specific artwork for the Homestead Aquatic Center.  By the end of the project Tyroler held several public exhibitions of photographic portraits of children and teenagers from the Adaptive Recreation and Inclusion Swim classes at the Homestead pool. The project title references the spectrum of developmental disorders associated with autism, as well as the spectrum of colors an artist might use in rendering a portrait. Tyroler framed the project as animating, enhancing and embracing the Adaptive Aquatics photo by Barbara Tyrolerinherent beauty and complexity of both of these spectrums. During the residency Tyroler created evocative and artistically rendered portraits of students with autism and other developmental disabilities as they learned confidence and independence in the water. The portraits then served as source material for the production of a series of wind- and fire-resistant, impressionistic banners that were permanently installed at the Homestead Aquatic Center in June 2014.

Partnerships with the Autism Society of North Carolina of Orange/Chatham County, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the Adapted Recreation & Inclusion Program of the Town of Chapel Hill enabled the project portraits to be shown at various galleries and educational venues during 2014 and 2015. Under Tyroler’s leadership, partners hosted educational forums to encourage understanding and respect for people with autism and the importance of inclusive programs for youth with disabilities. Tyroler observed, “This project blends fine art and humanitarian work, which is central to my art practice.”

Barbara Tyroler is a well-known artist whose work is exhibited at the FRANK Gallery in Chapel Hill, MoNA Gallery in Charlotte, and universities and hospital centers in the Washington, DC area. She has served as a Photographic Educator at the University of Maryland Art Department, the UNC School of Journalism, and the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. She was an Educational Therapist at the Wright School Re-Education Center and an Educational Therapist at the NC Memorial Hospital Child Inpatient Unit. Tyroler has used her photographic talents for teaching and rehabilitation with the Washington Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Epilepsy Foundation to name a few. Tyroler holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts.

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