Students launched an art exhibition Friday showcasing the many talents of actor Burt Young, an effort designed to draw attention to the experience of disabled students at UCLA.
The event, hosted by the Disabled Students Union at UCLA, was a fundraiser and silent auction that drew prominent Hollywood figures to Powell Library. Celebrity guests included screenwriter Justin Zackham, actor Jon Voight and director Donald Petrie.
Sam Schaffel, president of the Disabled Students Union, said donations and proceeds from the silent art auction will go to programs that will offer support to disabled students and educate the campus about disability-related issues.
Schaffel declined to disclose the amount of money raised because the event was a silent auction but said he was very pleased with the results.
“We try to facilitate an open environment where ideas are explored. I don’t want our members to feel that funding is an obstacle,” Schaffel said.
David Marino, a third-year evolutionary biology student and a member of the student union, said he hoped the event would bring discussion about disabled students to the attention of the UCLA community.
“At UCLA, in this environment, it’s only good to be normal or you will be socially rejected, and I’d really like to stop that,” Marino said.
Schaffel added that he entitled the exhibit “The Perception of Perfection” because he believes the paintings will challenge viewers to reexamine their own definitions of what it means to be normal.
“In art, a person doesn’t need to have a perfect body to be considered beautiful,” Schaffel said.
Schaffel described perfection as “abstract,” a concept that he said he feels is reflected in Young’s paintings.
The exhibit, which will last until Feb. 29 in Powell Library, includes 12 paintings by Young. Also on display were movie clips from his various movie roles, including his Academy Award-nominated performance in “Rocky.”
Schaffel praised Young, who was present to discuss his work with guests, for his enthusiasm in lending his art to help promote awareness about disabilities.
Young discussed his paintings in an informal manner.
“It’s such a pleasure to finally get into college,” Young said jokingly.
The artist said his paintings cover a variety of themes ranging from commentary on current events to the exploration of color.
Schaffel said Young’s distinctive style and ability to inspire powerful emotional responses in his viewers prompted his decision to invite Young to showcase his work in Powell.
“His art is very unique and very moving. His art spoke to me, and I really wanted to share this with as many people as I could,” Schaffel said.
Judy Lam, a second-year physiological science student, a member of the union, said she hoped the art show would help the group recruit new members.
Lam said she believes many disabled students are reluctant to join because they do not wish to call attention to their disabilities.
“A lot of disabled students don’t want to be identified. … They just want to stay silent,” Lam said.
UCLA alumna and former Disabled Students Union president Suhn Rhie said she hoped the exhibit would inspire other disabled students to speak openly about their disabilities.
“It’s not something to hide,” Rhie said.