One of the cornerstones of any successful community are the actions taken to support and empower the members who are in need of more specialized attention and services. Westchester Disabled On the Move (WDOM) is an organization that has done just that. Now, WDOM has commissioned a mural by Jacqueline Rivera, a Guatemalan-American artist and long-time Yonkers resident, who has directly benefited from its services and programs since the age of 18. With almost 35 years of dedicated service to Westchester’s disabled citizens, WDOM has enacted substantial change through numerous programs, including benefits advisement and advocacy, specialized housing consultation and independent living/school transition services.
These services have a ripple effect on the community that can be seen in the achievements of the many people utilizing the programs. Rivera’s experience is an example of how these services can make a difference. With the assistance of WDOM, Rivera was able to obtain a Visual Arts Degree from Westchester Community College in 2015. From a young age, she acknowledged the difficulties of having a learning disability and resolved to maintain a spirit of growth in her life. Rivera explains: “WDOM did a lot for me by providing guidance to stay focused and finish school, all while coming out of my artist shell.” She previously enjoyed cartooning and graffiti art; however, it was during college that she began to nurture a passion for illustration.
The roots of Rivera’s visual style come from her appreciation of graffiti and Latin art, which she was exposed to while growing up in the South Bronx. Artists like Gilbert Cantu, Frida Kahlo and Tony Peralta were key influences for Rivera, and their impact is reflected clearly in her work. In an effort to share her heritage with her audience, Rivera also incorporates themes and imagery that allude to her Mayan Guatemalan background. With her most recent pieces, she has been able to fuse these different influences into a unique visual presentation of mixed culture and aesthetic.
Some of her work can be seen at Community School 211 in the Bronx, the cover of a poetry book, INK, which was published by Westchester Community College (WCC), and a solo art show at WCC for Latin History Month. Her most recent piece, Empowering Together, is being unveiled in a ceremony at WDOM’s headquarters, located at 984 North Broadway, Yonkers NY Suite LL-10 on Monday, November 19,. The event, which is open to the public, will unveil Rivera’s artwork, accompanied by a video compilation of speakers who, with help from WDOM, have also overcome personal obstacles. Rivera says: “I wanted to promote something happy. Something that brings smiles and light to a person’s face.” While Rivera plans to continue her education and pursue a career in arts education or art therapy, the mural will remain on display in WDOM’s headquarters as an aspirational reminder to employees and participants to pursue their own creative potential.
William Bermingham, a student at Purchase College, is studying Arts Management. He is currently interning at ArtsWestchster and helps out in the Communications Department and with documenting live events.