Castello di Borghese exhibit features works by artists with Down syndrome

Brittany Schiavone of Huntington Station with a ceramic vase she submitted for the DOWNrightART exhibit at Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue. On view until April 19, the show features 50 paintings, sculptures and photographs by artists with Down syndrome. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Brittany Schiavone of Huntington Station with a ceramic vase she submitted for the Downright Art exhibit at Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue. On view until April 19, the show features 50 paintings, sculptures and photographs by artists with Down syndrome. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Nothing distinguishes Castello di Borghese ’s current display of 50 paintings, sculptures and photographs created by people with Down syndrome from any other exhibit — and that’s exactly the point.

“Let’s just say, in my point of view, we can do anything,” said Brittany Schiavano, 26, of Huntington Station, who contributed a handmade red vase to the Cutchogue show. She is one of 23 artists from around the country and the United Kingdom whose work is on display at the winery.

Organized by Alexander’s Angels, a Jericho nonprofit that raises money for Down syndrome research, the “DOWNrightART” exhibit opened March 21 with an reception attended by more than 150 people. It’s on view until April 19.

Credit: Rachel Young

Credit: Rachel Young

“I think it’s so important to reach out to the community and people in general and help them understand that these people who we view as disabled are magnificent, wonderfully talented people,” said Evie Kahn, general manager at Castello di Borghese. She said she hopes to host similar exhibits in the future.

“It’s really cool how many different genres there are,” added winery co-owner Allegra Borghese, who studied art therapy at graduate school in New Mexico. “Some are three-dimensional, some are abstract and some are super realistic. They’re very inspiring to people.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21. Varying in severity, the syndrome causes “lifelong intellectual disability and developmental delays.”

‘Morning Nectar,’ a mixed media painting by Bernadette Resha. (Credit: Rachel Young)

‘Morning Nectar,’ a mixed media painting by Bernadette Resha. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Alexander’s Angels president Esther Gomez-Nieto said she created the advocacy organization shortly after the 2001 birth of her grandson Alexander, who has Down syndrome. DOWNrightART was created as an extension of Alexander’s Angels in 2008, after Gomez-Nieto organized an art exhibit for a Nassau County artist with the disorder.

“I thought, ‘If there is one [artist], there must be more,’ ” Gomez-Nieto said. Her grandson, now 13, contributed a colorful papier-mâché guitar to Castello di Borghese’s exhibit.

“People walk into the room and they cannot believe that all the artwork featured there has been done by someone with Down syndrome,” Gomez-Nieto said. “It’s to say, ‘Yes they can!’ That’s the idea behind DOWNrightART.”

Borghese, who said all the artwork on display is for sale, plans to purchase a self-portrait by Daniel Makar of Freeport.

“His portrait looks like a ‘normal’ person,” she said. “It just proves that he doesn’t see himself as being any different. He doesn’t see himself as having anything wrong with him.

“If we could just remember that they’re as beautiful and whole and valued as the rest of us — and that’s the way they see themselves, too — I think it would just be better,” she said.