Library holds surprise gallery opening for Hammond artist

2012-11-01T21:15:00Z 2012-11-01T22:31:19Z Library holds surprise gallery opening for Hammond artistChas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com
November 01, 2012 9:15 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Levee Cunningham knows what it's like to have people doubt him, but the 46-year-old Hammond man also is accustomed to proving people wrong.

After an accident when he was a child, Cunningham was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Victoria Williams, Cunningham's mother, said many doctors at the time weren't optimistic about her son's condition.

Some told Williams her son should be institutionalized, and one doctor said Cunningham wouldn't live long.

Williams didn't give up on her son and Cunningham never gave up on himself, she said.

"He's come a long way," Williams said.

Cunningham has minimal use of his hands and legs and he uses a wheelchair.

That hasn't stopped him from many activities, including playing the guitar, writing poetry and creating art on his computer.

His artwork caught the attention of officials at the Hammond Public Library, which is displaying about 20 of Cunningham's pieces until Jan. 2 at the facility at 564 State St.

To celebrate the accomplishment, AccessAbilities, an agency that helps people with disabilities, hosted a surprise gallery opening Thursday for Cunningham.

"This never happened to me before," Cunningham said as he entered the building.

He said he hasn't been creating art that long, and the 1960s inspires his work.

Cunningham said he first started creating art when he was making an experimental movie on his computer. He said he needed pictures for the movie, so he decided to make them himself.

Jason Smola, staff development coordinator at AccessAbilities, said Cunningham has viewed his art on his computer, but he never saw it printed and framed until Thursday.

Smola said Cunningham is a regular at the Hammond Public Library, and the library approached him about a year ago to inquire about displaying his work there.

Smola said Cunningham has created many pieces and it was hard to choose which ones to show at the library.

Besides showcasing his artwork, Cunningham has other goals, including publishing a book, Williams said.

"He continues to surprise even me," she said.

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