KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new art exhibit opens Friday night in Kansas City, Missouri, featuring the portraits and stories of people with Down Syndrome, with the goal of creating a better understanding of them and their lives.
The project is called "Just As I Am." It's a partnership between the nonprofit 7 Billion Ones, led by photographer Randy Bacon, and local organization Down Syndrome Innovations.
The exhibit at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center will feature black-and-white portraits of people living with Down Syndrome, alongside video interviews with them, in which they talk about their hopes and dreams and the commonalities they share.
"I like to be treated with love and respect. I want people to look out for one another, be there for each other, make this world a better place," Khia, one of the models featured in the project said.
Sydney, another one of the models, said she hopes to go to University of Missouri to study American Sign Language. Another model, Liam, said he wants to become a physical education teacher and coach Special Olympics.
Bacon, the photographer behind the project, said he hopes the gallery shows people that those living with Down Syndrome can contribute just as much to the world as anyone else.
"That's what I'm trying to do is to get people just to take a step back, don't judge the book by its cover, try to get rid of any type of inaccurate negative judgments you may have and just get to know that person," Bacon said.
The models and their families said they hope the exhibit can help people understand that living with Down Syndrome isn't a bad thing.
"Our hope is, by seeing this gallery, and these pictures, people will see these individuals for who they are. They're just human beings," Jason Long, whose daughter Willow, is featured in the gallery said.
"I'm just born with [Down Syndrome] and I just love being normal and that's OK to have it and I really love my life," Halie, one of the models, said.
The exhibit run until Oct. 30. It's open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays. On First Fridays, it's open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and admission is free.
More information is available on the Down Syndrome Innovations website.