Watchung Natives Make Artistic Dreams Come True for Disabled Artists

Growing up in Watchung, it was clear that Brad and Dana Chernock’s interests and aptitudes gravitated toward “different sides of the brain.” Brad was drawn toward medicine and science; His younger sister Dana’s passion was the arts. Through the years, Dana recalls, “Brad and I often shared articles and events with each other that combined science/technology with the arts.” But even they are surprised at where this collaborative approach has recently taken them.

Brad is currently a fourth-year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark. During his third year pediatrics rotation last year, his class spent one day at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, a special hospital and educational facility in Peapack for children and adults with developmental disabilities. As part of the day’s agenda, the students were given a tour of the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center, home of Matheny’s Arts Access Program, which, through the use of innovative systems and techniques, empowers individuals with disabilities to create fine art. Brad found the experience enlightening and breathtaking.

The artists  — most of whom do not have use of their arms and, in many cases, are non-verbal  — work with professional artists who act as their facilitators. “After seeing how intricate the process of creating the art was,” Brad recalls, “I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase what they were doing on a bigger stage.” Since Dana is Old Masters Painting & Sale Coordinator at Sotheby’s, the prestigious international auction house in New York, Brad had a natural connection to that bigger stage.

“When Brad told me about his tour at Matheny and explained the arts program,” Dana says, “I was immediately interested in learning more and seeing how Sotheby’s might be able to offer a collaboration in some capacity. We were able to coordinate a three-day exhibition to take place at Sotheby’s. This will include a gallery walk led by Arts Access’ team and a ‘facilitator role-play’ as an employee engagement opportunity to deepen the understanding of the creative process that formed the works on view.”

The Sotheby’s exhibit, entitled The Art of Choice, will be held for three days from February 9-11, 2019. It will showcase the work of five Arts Access artists: Chet Cheesman, Ellen Kane, James Lane, Mike Martin, and Cindy Shanks.

Dana and Brad are graduates of Newark Academy, an independent middle and upper school in Livingston. In October 2018, Dana received NA’s “Women of Distinction” award. She earned an Arts Merit Scholarship to Bucknell University, which enabled her to continue her knowledge and practice of dance, performing and choreographing for the university’s Dance Showcases, and becoming Showcase Director as a junior and senior.

Brad is looking forward to a general surgery residency next year with plans to complete an acute care surgery fellowship in the future. He has a bachelor’s degree in emergency medicine from the University of Pittsburgh and is a graduate of the Weil Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences Surgical Physician Assistant program. He is particularly passionate about improving patient safety through teamwork and has given several talks on this topic.

Sotheby’s is located at 1334 York Avenue in New York City. Exhibition hours for The Art of Choice event will be 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, February 9; 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, February 10; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday, Feburary 11. It is free and open to the public.

About Matheny: Matheny’s mission is to provide exceptional care and an optimal quality of life for children and adults with special needs and medically complex developmental disabilities. Matheny was founded in 1946 by Walter and Marguerite Matheny, whose son, Chuck, was born with cerebral palsy. Although there were only three students and an operating budget of $3,000 obtained through a GI loan, the Matheny School was the first step in a major commitment to provide assistance to young people with physical disabilities and their families. Today, Matheny is licensed as a special hospital and a special education school. Matheny also trains healthcare professionals, therapists, and educators in how to work effectively with persons who have developmental disabilities. Matheny’s main campus is in Peapack, NJ, and it operates five adult community residences in Somerset and Warren counties. In addition to providing medical care and education, Matheny strives to improve the quality of life for its patients and students, and the Arts Access Program is, perhaps, the best example of how that is achieved.

(above) Brad and Dana Chernock, Watchung natives

Paintings that will be included in the exhibit