Dana Lynn Graap The Whole Shebang!
Dana thought big and aspired to influence others. She accomplished this on numerous fronts.
In 2008 Dana joined the Starlight team of artists. At that time her primary focus was ceramics. She presented her creations as being part of a series, which she would refer to as her “Fall Collection” or her “Holiday Collection”, etc. She had very specific instructions about how her art should be handled, often leaving lengthy hand-written instructions to the teaching artists.
Dana delighted the staff and other artists with her emphatic ways. She not only emphasized her wishes, but she also underscored others’ opinions and feelings. She was an enthusiastic cheerleader for her peers and sometimes their mouthpiece if she felt their cause needed her support.
At times Dana worked as the studio’s Town Crier. She would yell out to the art studio what Lunch Express, a traveling sandwich shop, was selling for the day. When Lunch Express went out of business and Starlight started its own snack shop, Dana assumed the role again of announcing the lunch offerings. This performance always made everyone smile.
Dana was an enthusiastic participant at Starlight; she was always up for a community outing. We are grateful for the pictures we have of her at many Buffalo landmarks: Canalside; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Burchfield-Penney Art Center; Parkside Candy; the Anderson Gallery; Indigo Gallery; Daily Planet Coffee Shop; the Broadway Market; the Downtown Library to name a few. Beyond community outings, Dana took full advantage of what the Starlight Program offered. Her collections of ceramic pieces and later large paintings, drawings and mixed media works were included in numerous group exhibitions at Starlight.
2018 was a year of significant accomplishments for Dana. In May 2018 she was featured in our exhibition series, Side by Each where her large paintings were shown alongside the paintings of James Paulsen. But perhaps Dana’s crowning achievement was in November 2018 when her original play, Hot Rock Hotel was staged at Alleyway Theatre. The play, which she wrote with the support of Beth Geyer, Unique Theatre’s artistic director, is set in a Las Vegas hotel. The play’s main character (whom Dana based on herself) owns the hotel. Writing the script, Dana was fueled by her vision of her fellow Starlight artists in the roles. She conceived of them as an ex-stripper, a chef, a waitress, a police officer, and a football player to name a few.
Dana’s imagination was vast. She pored over art history books and wrote and sketched steadily in her notebooks. She had an understanding of political power and the need to advocate for herself and others with disabilities. In a documentary about Dana, created by the Starlight staff with Squeaky Wheel in 2014, entitled The Whole Shebang, Dana tells the interviewer that people need to accept people with disabilities, “don’t be afraid of us, talk to us”.
Dana’s small shoes and big personality will live on at Starlight Studio. Her laugh, her smile, her notebooks chock full of pencil drawings and writings, her abundance of clay creations, and her huge paintings will remain etched in our memories.
To honor Dana Graap and her singular vision, Starlight will host an event this spring where we will view The Whole Shebang, her animation, The Obamas and read the Hot Rock Hotel. Stay tuned for a date and time. In the meantime, “don’t be afraid of us” and please do “talk to us”.
Remembering Alison Mantione
March 31, 1979 - January 19, 2021
It is with a heavy heart, that the Starlight Studio and Art Gallery Program of the Learning Disabilities Association of WNY must say good bye to one of its star artists, Alison Mantione.
With an eye to perfection, Alison had a focused approach to her art making. Turtles, animals, and nature imagery were the primary subject matter of her methodical creations. Her artwork evoked emotion and asked the spectator to take a closer look.
Alison joined Starlight Studio and Art Gallery in 2008. “I think I can be a perfectionist in my art making… I like to take my time when I make my art. It’s important to me to use the right colors and shapes to have things come out the way I like”. One of the highlights of Alison’s time at Starlight Studio included her work in the afterschool arts program called AIM, Arts Instruction Mentoring, where she helped to facilitate artmaking with youth. She learned to research lesson plans, manage art supplies, and teach projects. “I feel like the mentoring program is helping me manage my time and feel more accomplished. This makes me feel really good about myself”. “My sense of liking things to be ‘just so’ has helped me to have patience with the kids, because I have learned things take time.”
Along with the exacting drawings and paintings that Alison created, she also was a collector of objects that she found while walking through the city neighborhood where Starlight Studio is located (“her second home” as her Mom referred to Starlight Studio).
In March 2018, as part of its Side by Each exhibition series, Starlight Studio was proud to organize and host an exhibit of Alison and the Buffalo artist, Marc Tomko’s, artwork which showcased their respective collections of found objects. As the exhibition curator wrote, “the two artists collect for reasons both habitual and creative. Alison Mantione collects from the world around her seemingly indiscriminately: broken jewelry, discarded packaging, pins, bottle caps, a damaged license plate, broken bike parts, and more, all from the proverbial discard bin of gutters, yards and sidewalks. The found objects are organized by date-discovered, placed in bags or other containers, and labeled in Mantione's idiosyncratic handwriting that is as much flourish as it is text."
Alison was a singular artist and human being. Her motivation was peace and understanding. She was a free spirit and a loyal friend to all – sensitive to the under-dogs of this world. Alison hoped that her artwork reflected her dedication to improving this world by inspiring others to create peaceful nonjudgmental attitudes. Her openness, curiosity, humor, acceptance, generosity, and glitter will live on in Starlight Studio’s institutional memory.