Dana Anderson is 26 years old. She is severely affected by Down syndrome and autism. She cannot care for herself, she cannot read, write, or speak, but she has found her voice in acrylic painting. Her name at the top of the page is her signature, the only thing she can write. This site, therefore, is written and designed by her mom.
Dana has been painting for two years at the Inside Out Studio at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL. It is the ONLY studio for adults with a variety of disabilities in the state. She does not take lessons, no one suggests what she should paint. She, like the other emerging artists who participate at the Inside Out Studio, is encouraged to develop and express her own artistic vision. She simply paints for the pleasure of painting...both on and off the canvas.
Dana is an intuitive painter with a heightened sensitivity for composition and color. She creates landscapes, abstract landscapes, and abstract art. Her paintings use the visual language of shape, form, color, and line to create an alternative visual experience from visible reality. Instead of altering or representing a subject, Dana's color, texture, line, and form become the subject matter. Dana creates her acrylic pieces using a broadly generalized brushstroke, roller, or sponge, with smaller, articulate, accentuating strokes. She creates a natural blending of loud and softened hues, wheeling movements of color, and dynamic visual tension where darkness is punctuated by irregular points of light, or mediums overlap.
Dana has quickly become an artist of merit who is making history. She was Alabama's first artist with special needs selected to have her own gallery art exhibit March 1-April 30, 2018 at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. Her exhibit entitled "Beyond Barriers" displayed 20 pieces. She is also the first artist with special needs to be given her own gallery exhibit in the State of Georgia exhibiting 32 pieces at the Tull Hall Gallery in Atlanta November 4, 2018 - January 29,2019. This is an amazing step for the special needs population and the culture of our society. It's important for everyone to get used to the idea that persons with disabilities can do amazing things when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, like the majority of special education students in grades 6-12 across America, Dana was not allowed to take art electives to discover or hone her artistic skills like neuro-typical students. Since the law forces public schools to give special education students a "quality education", they do what they must to fulfill their core subject requirements and nothing more. Dana is a shining example of why the law needs to change so that all students have the opportunity to endeavor in the arts. Nonverbal students, in particular, need alternative means beyond the use of words to express themselves.
Within the last two years, Dana has painted more than 200 pieces. She has become the South's first artist with special needs to be given her own gallery exhibit in multiple states, and will continue to engage additional state gallery and museum opportunities. Critics have likened her work to renowned artists Helen Frankenthaler and George Lanyon who "romanced new mediums" in Abstract Expressionism and Modernism. Unlike other professional artists, Dana's work is her only voice, and it has become life-changing. She paints at the art studio one afternoon each week and looks forward to her time there, thoroughly enjoys painting, and is proud of her work. Now, not only has a newfound enthusiasm, self-awareness, and self-confidence blossomed, her work boldly promotes acceptance. Dana is using her shows and the publicity she gains to highlight the point that artists with disabilities are not only good at what they do, they are vital to the community.
OPENING NIGHT/ART EXHIBIT/Inside Out Studio
Since Dana's spring opening night celebration was an historic event, politicians, civic city leaders, and nationally known women who have also surpassed barriers in their fields, were on hand among hundreds of friends to celebrate the grand occasion. That night, not only did Dana break past a barrier, she enabled other adults with disabilities to endeavor in the arts as well. She held a fundraiser as part of the opening night celebration, bringing in more than 100 paintings to sell for one-night only, with 100% of the sale of those paintings going to the nonprofit Inside Out Studio where she paints. She sold 62 paintings in 90 minutes netting more than $8,500 for the studio. Learn more about Inside Out Studio at and visit their Patreon page: patreon.com/InsideOutStudio. (See videos)
In her pursuit to engage the public, Dana:
Received her own gallery status in Huntsville, AL, and Atlanta, GA making history as the first artist with special needs to do so.
Was accepted into the ArtAbility show in Philadelphia Nov, 2017-Jan, 2018.
Has been spotlighted by the national organization "The Art of Autism" Jan-Mar, 2018.
Was a six-page feature in the Jan/Feb, 2018 issue of magazine.
Was an award-winning feature news segment on WHNT-TV19 Feb, 2018. (see videos)
Was featured on AL.com nationwide Thursday, Mar 29, 2018.
Was a front-page news article in the Huntsville Times and every other city paper statewide Fri, Mar 30, 2018.
Was featured on several local, regional, and national social media and websites for art organizations, associations for Down syndrome, and organizations associated with autism.
Atlanta's CBS-46, and Fox 5 stations did a feature video about her work. (see videos)
CBS NEWS National Network produced a video that ran nationwide. (see videos)