This art is a little out of hand

The idea that art can only be made with a paintbrush in hand has been a common misconception – but not anymore.

The partnership ‘Mouth & Foot Painting Artists’ (MFPA) has been changing lives and building confidence in disabled artsits since 1957, when Erich Stegmann and eight other disabled artists created a disabled artists’ self-help group. For 60+ years it has been flourishing, enabling artists to enjoy financial stability doing what they love.

Eric Stegmann paved a way for many like him in years to come. He lost both of his arms at the young age of two, but thanks to the support and care of his teachers and family, his talents and passion did not go wasted. After the second world war, he established his poignantly named publishing company, ‘Dennoch’ (or ‘Anyway’) and made a career for himself.

Now his association helps others like him publish their works and have them recognised worldwide. Stegmann wanted the support and encouragement he received to be received by all like him, in order for them overcome their obstacles and do what they love.

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(Pictured above: ‘The Child’, a piece mouth-painted by Erich Stegmann himself. It is entirely indistinguishable from one painted by hand.)

The association represents roughly 820 artists in 76 different countries, helping each and every one of them achieve the association’s objectives, such as:

  • Negotiating publishing contracts;
  • Granting scholarships to promote the development of foot and mouth artists;
  • Provide them with financial stability via promoting their work for commercial use.

In a world today hyperfocused on achievement and fame geared toward the able-bodied, it is of increasing importance that the opportunities that arise for able-bodied artists also arise for the disabled. It is imperative that we, as a society, create a world where everyone feels welcomed and secure despite disabilities that can disadvantage a person for life.

MFPA strives to achieve this in a variety of ways. Once an artist has reached a standard considered equivalent to a non-disabled artist, they are granted associate status, or full membership. One of the perks of becoming a full member is the monthly income an artist will receive for life, regardless of their ability to paint. This is highly beneficial, both practically and for their mental health. It eases the artist’ mind, allowing them to paint without financial pressure – the cost of independence for a disabled person can be high.

(Pictured above: ‘Winter Cottage’, mouth painted by associate member Trevor Wells, who unfortunately passed away recently.)

Beth Pritchard

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