DISABLED IN BODY, BUT NOT IN SPIRIT
Miriam Pare meets Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan
Grant Sharman had a “once in a lifetime moment” when he met Prince Harry.
The Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Association (MFPA) is an international registered society of disabled artists, who due to a disability to their hands, create art with their mouth or foot. Stricken with disease, accident or birth deformities that resulted in the unfortunate loss of their arms, these unique artists create paintings by holding the paint brushes clenched with their teeth or held between their toes.
With over 800 artists from 74 countries, the MFPA instils in its artists a sense of self-respect and dignity that comes from earning an independent, honest and secure livelihood through the sale of their artwork, free from any charity.
Paintings and artworks of MFPA have been displayed in numerous museums and town halls around the world including the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Town Hall of Madrid, the UNO Headquarters in Geneva, Guildhall Art Gallery in London, Council of Europe in France and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
MFPA has many customers and supporters around the world who appreciate and understand the difficult lives and inspiring works of it’s artists. Among those prominent figures to have met with or celebrated the lives of the MFPA artists are the Honorable Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi, Honorable Presidents of India Mr Ram Nath Kovind, Dr Abdul Kalam and Mrs. Prathibha Patil, the Pope, Pierce Brosnan, HRH Prince Harry, Queen Sofia of Spain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Amitabh Bachchan, HRH Prince Charles, Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Prince William Duke of Cambridge and Rafael Nadal.
In India, the Association currently supports 20 member artists from across the country; The artists come from a diverse cultural background spread across the states of Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Members work individually from their homes and regularly submit artworks to the Association.
SELF HELP, NOT CHARITY
Founder of MFPA Arnulf Erich Stegmann
16 Mouth and foot painting artists met at Vaduz to hold the Founding meeting.
The roots of the MFPA go back to 1956, when Erich Stegmann, a polio-stricken mouth painter, gathered a small band of disabled artists from eight European countries. Their ultimate goal was to make their living through their artistic efforts, and to obtain a sense of work security that until then had eluded them.
Coupling his creative abilities with business acumen, Stegmann established the MFPA as a co-operative society that reproduces its artists’ work mainly in the form of greeting cards, calendars and books.
From the small group that he gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, the organisation has now grown to represent nearly 800 members, from 74 countries around the world.
One of the main themes of Stegmann’s credo was that the MFPA must never be regarded as a charity simply because its members are disabled. To Stegmann, the word “charity” was as abhorrent as the word “pity”. And thus, to this day MFPA’s motto worldwide remains as “self-help, not charity”.
ENABLING THE DISABLED - SINCE 1956
Live Demonstration by Foot artist Nadeem Shaikh
An exhibition by Sheela Sharma
The primary objective of the MFPA Association is to bring to the forefront the aesthetic creations of its disabled artists by providing them a platform to express their artistic talent. By offering financial support, the Association instills in its members a sense of freedom and dignity as well as an opportunity to earn an independent, honest and secure livelihood through the sale of their artwork reproduced in the form of greeting cards, calendars and other delightful merchandise.
The Association is constantly seeking promising new talent among the disabled who, perhaps, first take up painting as a form of therapy. MFPA invites anyone who has lost the use of their hands and paints by holding the brush in their mouth or with their feet, regardless of race, creed or colour to join the organization.
The Association has three qualifying levels: Student Member; Associate Member and Full Member. The majority of artists are typically admitted as student members. Students are provided with a grant to pay for tuition, art materials, etc. in order to maintain the high standard of their artistic work. The students’ work is periodically reviewed by a panel of assessors until they achieve a standard which enables them to be accepted as Associate or Full members. The panel of assessors includes the serving MFPA President or his/her appointed delegate and two eminent and recognized able-bodied artists. When approved, the managing board can admit the new member/student, subject to ratification by the members at the next delegates’ convention.
The objectives of the MFPA Association are:
- to make contact with all people who are either artists who have lost the use of their hands through accident or illness and who paint with the brush held in the mouth or with the feet; or people who, having been born or become disabled, wish to learn to paint and support themselves through the sale of their work.
- to take care of its artists’ interests by helping them to sell their work, primarily in the form of reproductions as greetings cards, calendars and other merchandise.
- to co-operate in the interests of self-helping disabled people, worldwide
- to give disabled people who are interested in becoming artists every moral and financial assistance to do so and give such members financial, practical and creative support to become fully developed artists.
- to publish material which communicates and supports the purpose of the organisation.
- to help disabled artists to attain self-respect, creative fulfilment and financial security.
- Stage exhibitions and conferences worldwide.
FOR DISABLED ARTISTS, BY DISABLED ARTISTS
The board of AMFPA
The MFPA Association is run as a “democratic co-operative”. All the member artists have a voice in how it is run as it is owned by all of them.
The President of the Managing Board is also the President of the Association and must be a mouth or foot painting artist who has won recognition as an artist and achieved success in international exhibitions.
Worldwide, the delegate’s convention is ultimately responsible for control of all the Association’s activities. The delegates also pass necessary resolutions, amend statutes and approve annual accounts and budgets. With the exception of their legal consultant, all members of the delegate’s convention are disabled artists.
The delegates appoint a managing board, comprised of member artists with a maximum of seven people. The managing board appoints able-bodied professionals to run the publishing houses, which manage the marketing activities of the organization.
The management procedures are governed by the statutes, which require that a delegates’ convention be held at least once every three years. Delegates are chosen to represent Association Members, who vote through postal ballot based on their region.
For electoral purposes, the Association divides the world into four regions: Europe, Africa and the Middle East; the Americas; the Far East; Australasia and Oceania. Each region deputes at least one delegate for every five members.
OVER 800 SELF-RELIANT ARTISTS ACROSS 70 COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE
Mouth artist Ganesh Kumar
Foot artist Swapna Augustine
As co-owners of the Association, member artists are the sole benefactors of the Association’s financial objectives. Revenues are distributed among all artists in the form of monthly scholarships and year-end bonuses.
Student members receive a scholarship to help improve their standard of painting by providing funds for materials, tuition, etc. This provides them with the means to become an Associate or Full member of the Association. As a student improves, the scholarship is increased.
When a student has reached a standard judged to be the equivalent to that of non-disabled professionals, Associate or Full membership is granted.
Membership means that every member artist will receive a monthly income for life regardless of whether increasing disability makes it possible for them to continue providing artwork that the Association can market. This arrangement removes great fear from the disabled artist – the possibility of losing one’s ability to continue painting through deteriorating health.
Membership enables the artist to concentrate on painting, secure in the knowledge that business matters are being handled according to their wishes by experienced professionals.
Members and students have the opportunity to meet at the Association’s conferences, exhibitions and other events, where they are able to gather, interact and learn from each other.