What is beauty? Artist delves into modern day definition while raising awareness about Down syndrome

Art exhibit raises awareness for Down syndrome

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Danielle Portera and her little sister are really close. They are just three years apart, and they spend a lot of time together. Danielle is an art student at Samford University, and when she had to choose a focus for her senior art project, she picked her little sister.

“I was reflecting on what it meant to be beautiful, and what it means to be beautiful in today’s society. I wanted to use models that I knew, but I spend a lot of time with my sister, and I realized I wanted to focus on her,” says Danielle.

Her sister has Down syndrome. The diagnosis did change her family’s life, but Danielle wants everyone to know that her sister’s life has changed the world.

“She’s very friendly, you can walk into any store and she’s probably going to run into someone she knows. She makes friends so easily. I think she’s a beautiful person because of that,” says Danielle.

The exhibit chronicles her sisters life, with challenges and successes, from an open heart surgery as a baby to her first communion to her success in beauty pageants.

Danielle hopes her art will raise awareness about the beauty of every life, regardless of special needs.

(Source: Shilo Groover/WBRC)

In her artist’s statement, she points to statics that show 67 percent of pregnancies in the U.S are ended after a Down syndrome diagnosis, and almost 100 percent are terminated in other countries.

“I took a pro-life stance, particularly on Down syndrome, because I wanted to show that I think my sisters life is worth living, and it’s worth taking a chance on. There will be struggles and challenges but at the end of the day, it’s worth it,” says Danielle.

She hopes her art will show the world that people with disabilities are beautiful and can have a wonderful life.

“99 percent of Down syndrome individuals interviewed said they had a happy and good life. I thought that says it all. Almost everyone says their life is worth living,” says Danielle.

She has advice too for those whose lives have not been touched by special needs.

“If you ran across someone with Down syndrome, go talk to them. They might change your life. Don’t be afraid. I know a lot of people if they aren’t in the special needs community might be a little bit hesitant if they do every so often run into someone with special needs, but just talk to them, they will probably influence you in some way and will change day,” continued Danielle.

Danielle is graduating with an B.S. in Art this spring. Her sister is graduating from high school.

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