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Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute

International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities

International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities

Stone Hare II by Donna Smith

Donna Smith's “Stone Hare II" is the piece of art chosen for the invitation for the Courage Kenny 51st Annual International Art Show by Artist with Disabilities, June 5 – 24 2014.

Donna was born in 1954 in Connecticut and was first taught to draw by her father at age six. She has been interested in art for as long as she can remember, and spent many hours sketching when she was young. Donna began oil painting lessons and loved that medium. She painted in oils until she became a quadriplegic in 1990. At that time she began to paint in watercolor by holding the brush in her mouth. She then branched out to oils once again, and then to acrylics. She has also done a few pieces of artwork in pastel, and some in graphite. Donna enjoys working in all mediums.

The annual International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities takes place every spring. Use the 2014 Art Show Entry Form to submit your work. For more details, call 612-863-4872.

The International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities is a 51-year tradition of which Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute is very proud.

The show, held each spring, is one of only a handful of judged art shows in the country for those with a physical or mental impairment.

The Institute's mission is all about helping individuals progress towards their personal best. Our art show is an extension of that -- highlighting the abilities of those who experience physical or mental limitations.

Art show sales and permanent collection

About one-quarter of the art show entries are sold each year, with 75 percent of the proceeds going to benefit the individual artists.

Artwork is judged in six categories:

  • graphic
  • watercolor
  • sculpture
  • photography
  • mixed media
  • oils and acrylics.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital has a permanent art collection from past shows that includes more than 350 pieces of art. Nearly 200 are on display in the hospital.

Art show history

The show stems from the passion of the late Margaret Anderson. She contracted polio at the age of 26 which resulted in quadriplegia and dependence upon a respirator to sustain her life. Anderson developed a passion for painting, refining her skill as a painter with a brush in her mouth as opposed to her hands. Anderson inspired the establishment of the art show and directed it for many years with support from the former Sister Kenny Auxiliary.

The International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities takes place every spring. For more information, please call 612-863-4872.

2013 winners

Previous art shows

2012 gallery

2011 gallery

The 50th Annual International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities was May 2 to 24, 2013.

To get a closer look at the 2013 winners, click on the images below. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move from one photo to the next.

Best in Show Award

Judges' Encouragement Award




Mixed media

Oils & acrylics


Profile of an artist: Susan Fink

Susan Fink and Sister Kenny's Karl Sandin, MD, talked with KARE 11's Pat Evans about some of the pieces in the 49th Annual International Art Show by Artists with Disabilities.

The Sister Kenny Art Show and Sister Kenny Rehabilitative Institute are close to my heart.

My association with Sister Kenny began 10 years ago when I arrived at its front entrance strapped to a stretcher, able to move my arms a little, but paralyzed below the chest, only able to move the big toe on my right foot.

A week earlier I broke my neck and injured my spinal cord after falling while cross-country skiing in northern Wisconsin. As I lay in the snow waiting for my husband to get help, I said a little prayer promising to work my hardest if I could live to see my daughters again.

I was rescued by snowmobile and then airlifted to St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth where a great surgeon operated on me. Fortunately, the injury to my spinal cord was incomplete.

Getting back on my feet

After a week in intensive care, I was transferred to Sister Kenny at Abbott Northwestern Hospital to begin rehab. For 10 weeks I worked hard to re-learn the basics, like sitting up, lifting my arms, and feeding myself.

Every day my body was totally spent. My doctors, nurses and therapists pushed me to get my body working again – and equally important – taught me how to erase the word "can't" from my vocabulary.

Becoming an artist

Susan Fink in front of her watercolor painting during the 2009 Sister Kenny Art Show

Although I determined I had no artistic ability back in junior high, I decided to try watercolor painting during my stay at Sister Kenny. A recreational therapist hooked a brush holder to my hand and urged me to try making something.

It was exhausting work just getting the paint on the brush and then to the paper and it took two sessions to complete. I painted three small hearts; one for my husband and one each for my daughters. It was definitely the hardest thing I have ever painted, but worth the effort.

After leaving Sister Kenny, I got busy with family life and for five years Idid not think any more about painting. When walking became more difficult and I needed a power wheelchair to get around, I decided to find a hobby to pursue while my family hiked, biked or skied. Watercolor sounded like it might be the ticket, with simple materials to handle and transport, so I took my first class at the Edina Art Center and was hooked.

I made a goal to be brave enough to enter two paintings in the Sister Kenny Art Show. I remember on opening night feeling so awkward wearing a ribbon that said "artist" because I just did not think I was one. To my amazement, when I found my paintings in the hallways, they each had an encouragement award next to them. It is so rewarding and confidence building to be part of this event, even when you do not win an award or sell your painting. The energy is so positive for everyone involved.

Painting what I love

There is so much to learn in watercolor. When I paint, I start with a subject I love, like a tree, the sky or light shining on a window. I mix colors on the paper and am never sure what the end results will be. Often it is the accidental things that end up pleasing me most.

I love the art show and Sister Kenny. In fact, I am still a regular in the therapy gym on the second floor. Three times a week you can find me pedaling away on the electric "stim" bike.

I see the therapists working with patients and see the way people change. It is an amazing place worthy of all our support.

Source: Susan Fink
Reviewed by: Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
First Published: 12/01/2009
Last Reviewed: 04/19/2012