KANSAS CITY, MO. — A brand new art exhibit debuted in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District over the weekend, and is now open for visitors at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center.
"Just as I Am" is a portrait gallery featuring members of the Down Syndrome community.
"I want people to walk in, look at the ones presented in this exhibit and connect with them," photographer Randy Bacon said. "And realize like 'Hey, we all matter, we're all important, we all have a story.'"
Bacon said he learned a lot in the intimate setting of the photo shoot.
"One of the subjects said her favorite thing to do is play bubbles with her dad," Bacon said. "A simple thing like that, that's what life's about. It's not the big things, it's the little things."
Halie was one of Bacon's models and was eager to share her experience.
"Living with Down Syndrome means I have it because I have an extra chromosome and I was just born with it," Halie said. "And having Down syndrome makes me feel great. I just love being normal and that's okay to have it and I really love my life."
"They have hopes and fears just like us, they have likes and dislikes, and they love and love to be loved," Jason Long, whose daughter Willow is featured in the gallery said. "They have the whole host of emotions and feelings that you or I do, and that means they're just as much a person as you or I are and they are to be valued as much as a person as you or I are to be valued."
From now until the end of October, those who visit 20th and Baltimore Avenue in the Crossroads, will have a chance to meet their neighbors.
The man behind the camera says he wants people to walk away from his work not just seeing it, but feeling it too.
"They reflect upon how they treat other people," Bacon said. "They reflect upon how have I viewed individuals with Down syndrome? Ultimately, that's what I am trying to do is to get people just to take a step back, don't judge the book by its cover."
This exhibition comes on the heels of Disability Pride Month.
Down Syndrome Innovations, a driving force behind the project, hopes it continues to break barriers and strip away stigmas for the Down Syndrome community, and others with intellectual disabilities.
For more information on the exhibit, click here.