A life of Advocacy in the Arts
For more than 44 years, Rae Edelson has been the Director of Gateway Arts, a Vinfen service and an internationally acclaimed studio art center dedicated to providing individualized arts-based services to adults with disabilities. She has seen firsthand how creating art and pursuing a career in the Arts can change lives, leading to healing, empowerment, and confidence. Ready for a new chapter in her life, Ms. Eldelson recently stepped down from her position in June and is looking forward to retirement.
It all started back in 1977. Ms. Edelson had moved to Boston from Manhattan and had accepted a position as Director of what was then known as Gateway Crafts, a small arts and human services program. This program had been established in 1973 as part of the deinstitutionalization of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health state schools. In 1978, Gateway Crafts was acquired by Vinfen and by 1980, the program had greatly expanded its services and moved from Brighton, MA, to its current location in Brookline. In 1994, an additional 5,000 square feet of space was added to accommodate the growing demand for services for people with mental health challenges, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and brain injuries. In 2000, a 12-member advisory committee of collectors, art professionals, philanthropists, and family members of artists was established and in 2001, Gateway Crafts was officially renamed Gateway Arts. Throughout this evolution, Vinfen encouraged and supported Ms. Edelson in her efforts to expand the program and its service delivery. “And expand we did,” she shared.
Over the past four decades, Ms. Edelson has increased the number of individuals served to over 100 participants, grew the budget from $60,000 to over 2 million, secured and diversified new funding sources, developed new partnerships across the country, built fundraising to over $400,000 annually, assisted with staff retention, and expanded business opportunities for artists. “This is a place where you can develop skills, receive recognition, and do the work that you love. What we care about most is that each artist has told the story of their life through art and that they feel a part of the society and the community that they live in. They feel part of the art world,” Ms. Edelson explained.
Ms. Edelson’s hope for the future of Gateway Arts is that the program will continue to be a valued studio art center in Massachusetts and around the world. “The important thing about Gateway and its impact is that it gives opportunity to individuals with disabilities to pursue art as a career and build their identity as artists in the community and with their family, friends, and admirers. I am thankful to the visionary people from our funding sources, our supporters, Vinfen, and the community for making a life in art possible for hundreds of talented adults with disabilities,” she commented.
Ms. Edelson will certainly be missed, and we wish her the very best in her future endeavors. Her legacy and impact on Vinfen, Gateway Arts, and the art and disability community will last the test of time, and we are so grateful for everything that she has done to impact the lives of so many along the way.