Three local artist-entrepreneurs with disabilities who work with a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit will be featured in a May 2 live-stream concert by Gaelynn Lea, a nationally known singer-songwriter from Minnesota.
Lea is a classically trained violinist whose music incorporates elements of folk and alternative rock. She came to prominence in 2016 as the winner of the “Tiny Desk” concert contest held by National Public Radio’s “NPR Music.” Born with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta or “brittle bones,” Lea is also an advocate of rights for people with disabilities and for accessibility in the arts.
In the year since the pandemic killed music tours, Lea has been holding weekly live-stream concerts called “Sunday Sessions” featuring a wide variety of artistic guests. Some are well-known fellow musicians, such as members of Wilco and Martin Atkins, a drummer who has performed with Ministry and Public Image Ltd. But many other kinds of artists are included as well, such as the trio from the local nonprofit Synergies Work who will be featured May 2.
Lea said in an email that Synergies Work founder Aarti Sahgal contacted her about collaboration and that the themes of art and support for people with disabilities is a “perfect fit.”
“Synergies Work is all about the economic empowerment of people with disabilities through entrepreneurship, and this is a huge passion of mine as well,” said Lea. “Did you know that, according to the [U.S.] Department of Labor’s statistics, people with disabilities are almost twice as likely (10.3% vs. 6.1%) to be self-employed as their able-bodied counterparts? Often, disabled entrepreneurs are left with little guidance or professional support, and Synergies Work is stepping in to provide those missing pieces.”
Sahgal said in an email that she founded Synergies Work in 2017 as a result of a family promise to her son Angad, who was born in India with Down syndrome at a time when there were few resources for children with disabilities.
“My husband and I made [a] simple promise to each other that we will provide the same opportunities to Angad to grow and succeed as our older son, Arjun. And, it is this promise that has guided our journey of working with families such as ours – parents and caregivers of children with disabilities,” Sahgal said. “The journey has led me to create Synergies Work, a nonprofit organization that is committed to expanding business opportunities for people with disabilities. I believe in raising the bar and providing equitable opportunities is fundamental to human dignity, challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
The nonprofit provides artists with “idea to incubation” assistance on their entrepreneurship, as well as an open-studios program, an online gallery and marketplace, and other services.
The metro Atlanta artists who will be featured in the May 2 concert include:
Angad Sahgal, whose painted illustrations appear on face masks available on the Synergies Work website.
Peter An, an artist and illustrator who has just finished his first book of illustrations. He dreams of becoming a Disney illustrator.
Juvaes Stratton, a muralist, artist and sculptor who is expanding into photography and hopes to launch a photography business.
“Their paintings are beautiful and I am excited to ask them about their entrepreneurial goals for the future,” Lea said of the artists.
The May 2 “Sunday Sessions” live-stream is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern time on YouTube and will include a chance for the audience to ask questions of the artists in the virtual chat. It will include captions for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The event is free, but tips are encouraged and will be split between Lea and Synergies Work. To see the concert, go to the YouTube link.