F.O.R.W.A.R.D. (Friends Or Relatives With Autism And Related Disabilities)
A Housing Community For The Developmentally Disabled

Debra Hope Colligan

Debra Hope Colligan

Deb Colligan & her husband Dennis Colligan

Deb Colligan & her husband Dennis Colligan


Debra Hope Colligan is an award winning landscape & animal painter & graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) receiving a Scholarship Award for Masters credits from PAFA and The Barnes Foundation/The Violette de Mazia Trust in "Advanced Theoretical & Critical Studies of the Fine Arts"  She enjoys past & present gallery representation on Cape Cod & the Islands and throughout the United States and has been featured in numerous publications on Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, NYC, & Philadelphia.  "Art Provides Way To Heal For Artistic Couple” article on the cover of The Falmouth Enterprise 1/30/15 http://www.capenews.net/falmouth/news/art-provides-way-to-heal-for-artistic-couple/article_13c801ca-a8e2-11e4-a59c-e74ed053037d.html

 

She lives on Cape Cod with her husband, Dennis, filmmaker, photographer & artist where she maintains her studio & teaches her Self-Expressive Painting and Drawing to differently-abled students both privately & at Cape Abilities Residences on Cape Cod & at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Hyannis Museum, to her Kennedy Donovan Center (KDC), Cape Cod Community Services students.  She organized & presented an art exhibit/reception at the JFK Hyannis Museum with her KDC student's artwork entitled “Artism a Creative Interpretation of Art & Disability, Expressive Portraits of the Kennedys” 11/17/16 presented by KDC and the JFK Museum.  Last year she also curated The Joy of Artistic Expression” presented by KDC, at the Thomas E. Hanley Gallery, Falmouth Hospital 5/1/16 – 6/30/16 her artwork was exhibited in the show along with her KDC art students.  Another exhibit she created, curated, organized & displayed her artwork in was “Healing Through Art ” at Cotuit Center for the Arts 2/15/12 – 3/17/12 an impressive & inspiring art exhibit celebrating the work created by artists with disabilities, incl her students from the Brain Injury Assoc of MA, Cape Abilities artists and more.  It's purpose was to foster an appreciation of artists on Cape Cod with disabilities through their achievements & stories reflected in their art that has enriched their lives. http://barnstable-hyannis.patch.com/groups/arts-and-entertainment/p/cotuit-center-for-the-arts-and-debra-hope-colligan-prd5e00fbd22

Debra also organized/taught a Heart to Heart Bereavement Art and Horseback Riding Workshop for Children, organized with the ”Visiting Nurse Assoc. (VNA) of Cape Cod at Smithfield Farm. Debra has been teaching Private/Group Painting/Drawing En Plein Air & Portrait art classes at Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod and many more art classes in her studios over the years on – Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and in NYC, Chester Springs, Philadelphia & New Hope, PA.

 

Her works are among many private and public collections; The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, Adam Clayton/U2, Jon Bon Jovi, Past & Present E Street Band Members the late Clarence Clemons & Danny Federici, David Sancious, Steve Van Zandt, Rob Bonfiglio/Carnie Wilson, James Taylor, Jackson Browne & Todd Rundgren, artwork on display at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital's Permanent Art Collection, Malvern, PA where her artwork has been juried/featured Annually into Art Ability a yearly International Art Exhibit for the disabled 2005 - Jan. 31, 2017.  Painting juried/exhibited at PAFA's 2nd Annual Benefit Live Auction on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014 at PAFA's Walter and Leonore Annenberg Gallery painting was the 1st painting sold at the live auction. Organized 2 PA Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) New England Alumni art exhibits with her artwork in it that ran from August 30, 2012 – November 25, 2012 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA and the Louisa Gould Gallery, Vineyard Haven, MA. 1982 “Music on Canvas" Solo Exhibit Century Café Gallery, NYC "Attended by 1000 guests, including musicians i.e. Aerosmith, The Clash, E Street Band.

 

On 9/4/04 Debra sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) after being thrown from a horse, which significantly changed her life. With the support of her devoted husband, Dennis as her caregiver, he enabled her to once again be the artist she was before her TBI.   Dr. Anjan Chatterjee whose a pioneer in the field of neuroaesthetics, & chief of neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital, author of The Aesthetic Brain did a neuroaesthetics study on Debra's artwork right after her TBI. He had a lab member watch her create her artwork in the studio & then he studied/evaluated her artwork to see if her work/style had changed after her TBI, which it hadn't. So he was quite surprised & impressed that she was still able to paint realistically & he said that in a lot of cases after a brain injury a realistic artist's paintings are much more abstract.  Debra certainly understands the complex & often counterintuitive ways in which our brains process concepts such as art & beauty. After her TBI Debra has been inspired to teach her differently-abled art students how to be self-expressive creating their masterpieces. Both Debra and her students are all very proud to display the fruits of their creative efforts which certainly link them to a place of healing, hope & inspiration to family members and friends. She feels that her students feelings are reflected in their art which enriches their lives and their families.

Prior to her TBI Debra was Executive Director of a nonprofit, Community Accountants (CA) in Phila., PA which was a part of Resources for Human Development (RHD) whose mission is to empower people in need, helping them attain the hightest level of independencepossible and to build better lives for themeselves, their families and their communites. CA provided pro bono accounting to nonprofits, artists and folks in need presenting workshops with former State Senator Shirley Kitchen for her constients in Philadelphia along with United Way of Greater Phila & Southern NJ. Also Debra presented "Don't Fear the Taxman" accounting workshops presented with the IRS at PAFA, Moore College of Art & Design and Univ. Of the Arts.  Debra did all the development for CA and received funding from Pew Charitable Trusts, The Philadelphia Foundation, Vanguarud Foundation, the Claneil Foundation and more.

 

After recovering from a TBI and a craniectomy Debra is very passionate about pursuing FORWARDS mission to provide a small-scale model housing community where adults with autism and related disabilities will prosper in a safe, supportive environment.  Debra works at Cape Abilities Residences with her art students weekly and see's how happy they are with Cape Abilities wonderful support staff and all of the day programs and activities provided.  FORWARD is a much needed home for young adults sadly, there currently aren't enough group homes for the developmentally disabled on Cape Cod.  Both FORWARD's Board and Cape Abilities are anxious to having FORWARD's much needed housing built in Dennis, MA ASAP.