November 19, 2016 - Jan. 29, 2017
Extended to April 30, 2017
When Bruce Gillespie was born in Connecticut on June 30, 1952, his parents were told that he was a “non-entity” and that they should institutionalize him immediately. Despite the diagnosis of Down syndrome, Bruce’s parents decided to raise him at home. From a very early age his artistic ability became obvious, and his parents tried to nourish it. “We felt this is what he is happy at. This thing of beauty – that’s what he is trying to get out. It’s beauty. And the only way he can express it is not through voice but through the actual working of it by material means rather than verbal means.”
Through his attendance at the Danbury Regional Center from 1974 to 1976, Bruce’s artistic talent became esteemed. His art was chosen for the 1976 Special Olympics booklet, and he was appointed staff artist for Creative Concerts, Inc. Despite these accolades, Bruce “wasn’t drawing to please anyone. He was just drawing because [he] had had an urge to express himself. Once a drawing was complete, he didn’t care what happened to it. It could be thrown out for all he cared. He just had to draw it- that was all that mattered.”
Since 1976, Bruce has lived in Florida, Texas, and Arizona with various family members. He has continued to create and exhibit artwork. In 2012, he moved back to Connecticut to live with his nephew. He continues to draw at a day program in Danbury, and participates in the Special Olympics. Recently, his artwork has been exhibited at the Arts Council of New Haven.
In the summer of 1976, Bruce began a collaboration with his teacher, Sam Goldenberg, to illustrate a children’s Bible. To create each illustration, Sam would read the Biblical passage before Bruce would draw, explaining the verses if needed. His depictions of the Creation story, displayed here, have been described as the following:
His drawings… are alive, vibrant with movement and color, consistent. Despite his handicap, he has the gift of intuitively grasping the essence of his subject and of being able to express it in his art.
Mother Miriam Benedict O.S.B.
Abbey of Regina Laudis