TUCSON, Ariz., April 14, 2011 – Baltimore artist Tommy Roberts has had a painting of comedian Jerry Lewis, who serves as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, accepted into the MDA Art Collection. Now in its 19th year, the Collection features artwork by people from across the country with muscular dystrophy and related disorders.
“Young Jerry” is the fourth painting by Roberts, 50, to be accepted into the Collection. The first, a portrait of the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis titled “Electric Miles,” joined the collection in 1999. Two additional works by Roberts, “Coltraine Playing My Favorite Things” and “The Swing,” were donated to the Collection in 2009.
A well-known artist in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area, Roberts is affected by Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) and uses a wheelchair for mobility. BMD causes progressive weakness of all voluntary muscles and the heart. Roberts has been painting since childhood and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Roberts’ work has been exhibited at Artscape art festival, jazz festivals, museums and galleries throughout the country. He is known for capturing the essence of his subjects through strong likenesses and expressive colors.
Roberts completed his painting of legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis after appearing on the national broadcast of the MDA Telethon in September 2010. The painting features a side view of a seated, dark-haired Lewis, wearing a white, open-collared shirt and looking pensive as he rests his chin on his hand.
“This is the Jerry Lewis I grew up with in the 1960s and ‘70s,” Roberts said. “I laughed my head off at his movies, watching his body gestures and all his great physical comedy. Jerry Lewis and Richard Pryor are the two greatest comedians ever.”
Roberts, who works part time as an art teacher, has been involved with MDA for a number of years. He has appeared on both local and national MDA Telethon broadcasts and was chosen as the recipient of MDA’s 2006 Personal Achievement Award for the state of Maryland.
“Young Jerry” is on display at MDA’s national headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. The piece also will be included in MDA Art Collection traveling exhibits.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Tommy Roberts’ new work into the permanent MDA Art Collection,” MDA President & CEO Gerald Weinberg said. “This talented artist has perfectly captured our national chairman, Jerry Lewis, as a young man. This painting will undoubtedly fascinate and delight all who see it at our national office in Tucson, or in galleries and museums as part of special exhibits of the Collection.”
The Collection was established in 1992 to focus attention on the achievements of artists with disabilities and to emphasize that physical disability is no barrier to creativity.
It comprises more than 380 works by artists of ages 2 to 82, representing all 50 states. Each artist is affected by one of the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases in MDA’s program.
Selected art from the Collection has been exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art; Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center and the Forbes Collection in New York City; Chicago Public Library; Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art; Los Angeles Children's Museum; Capital Children's Museum, Washington, D.C.; and many other sites.
MDA is a voluntary health agency working to defeat muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle diseases through programs of research, services, advocacy, and professional and public health education. MDA maintains clinics for area adults and children at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at Children’s National Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
The Association’s programs are funded almost entirely by individual private contributors.