I met Carlos Ash at Mountain Shadows Outreach Services in San Marcos, California. I met Arlene Galvan, Director of Program Development and Dr. Shannon Nolan from California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) shortly thereafter and had already fallen in love with the facility. Mountain Shadows Outreach Services (MSOS) is an adult day program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. I admired and was inspired by its staff, participants, and the students from Dr. Nolan's Tukwut Leadership Circle (TLC). A couple years later all joined to form what is known as the M:POWR Project (Mountain Shadows Painting Our World Radiantly).
Carlos was a "standout" when I first met this young man, wearing his USC sports sweatshirt and hat, big brown eyes and thick eyebrows sitting there looking up at me. At first, I didn't pay attention to the fact that he was in a wheelchair. There was something about his presence and attitude that overpowered the fact that he used the chair on wheels that struck me. I also felt that he was quietly watching and was assessing my presence as well. I had a premonition that he was here "for the art" and for that alone, I knew he was going to be a good participant. Little did I know just how good!
My late husband and I took an immediate liking to this young man because he faithfully attended the weekly sessions and participated in painting with great enthusiasm. He was able to paint and express himself. He had a keen sense of design and color and was always interested in getting me and other artists to sketch different themes for him to paint.
Carlos' talent evolved as the months, weeks and years seemed to fly by and I got to know his traveling father who doted over him whenever he was in the country. He seemed to have a high level of passion and a great amount of inspirational and motivational support for his son, and it was easy to see how close Carlos was to his dad. In fact, they often painted together.
After a year or two of successful painting sessions that yielded wonderful murals we became involved in a partnership with CSUSM, its staff, and participants and organized a meeting to determine which direction this project was going to pursue. This meeting was the genesis of a now 8-year relationship that has brought together people who have formed friendships and bonds among and between us, including the bus drivers who transport the participants from their residences to MSOS. Among them, again was a "standout" among other standouts that attended and of course I am referring to Carlos Ash.
His work began with selling to family and friends and it was all because his work was pretty good and topical as he tailored some of his paintings to order. The other great things about Carlos was that he began to create his own designs, conducting research, educating himself, and communicating with others about what they liked in paintings of what he completed. And one more thing-he generously gave away numerous pieces of his work just because he liked people who liked his work, and oftentimes to bring healing and joy to children at the Rady Children's Hospital, and to others who might be ill or simply be depressed. He became an artist with a voracious need to paint. He won several awards including first place in the first annual Art Auction for M:POWR artists.
It wasn't long before the Art Miles Mural Project knew that Carlos would make an amazing Peace Paint Ambassador and represented the project at several locations including the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. He will represent the project at the Rady Children's Hospital when delivering nearly 100 small paintings that were created by himself and colleagues during the summer of 2019.
Carlos, along with several other MSOS participants have elevated their artistic skills with help and dedication by CSUSM TLC participants and have instituted a wonderful program that benefits so many. His gifted and evolving talent and skills led by his leadership and determination to always take him to the next level is extraordinary. He is truly a mentor to many.
Now is the time for Carlos to exhibit his work in a major exhibition, not only at or for MSOS or the residents where he lives, but for his fun and "giving" attitude toward others and his thirst to meet and make new friends. His deep interest in self-expression through his paintings have helped make Carlos a special and most important, a fine example of individuals with intellectual disabilities can mobilize and discover their own capabilities and produce wonderful works of art and inspire others.
Students from CSUSM that have come to know Carlos speak highly of his talent and there have been occasions when Carlos himself could be seen encouraging and teaching students how to paint and assist others with getting paint and brushes and other materials needed.
Many thanks to Mountain Shadows Outreach Services where nearly 100 clients come daily learning and improving skills and finding friendship and caring individuals...because:
"The Best Place to Be is TOGETHER"