Artistic collaboration leaves legacy for Canadian creator while supporting artists with disabilities

A Calgary-based national arts centre focused on supporting artists with physical and developmental disabilities has been gifted a generous donation by a late Toronto-based sculptor.

The family of Won Lee has partnered with the National accessArts Centre (NaAC) to give their 300 artists a chance to be featured on a national stage.

READ MORE: City of Calgary to invest $2.5M for upgrades to new home for National accessArts Centre

Won Lee, Toronto-based sculptor. Jill Croteau/Global News

Won Lee was an artist who lived with the effects from polio. He died in May 2021 after being diagnosed with cancer. His widow, Hyonchu Lee, wanted to keep her husband’s legacy alive.

Story continues below advertisement

“He knew he had a very limited time to live and for creating his art, but he kept going to the studio and working and working and working,” Hyonchu said.

Hyonchu Lee, Won’s wife. Jill Croteau/Global News

“My husband always wanted to share his everything, he would love this moment.”

“This is part of his plan to push me and teach me how can we manage his legacy for a long time,” Hyonchu said.

Won’s family will retrofit his former workspace in order to provide a new space for artists with physical or developmental disabilities to showcase their work. His studio and gallery is located on Toronto’s vibrant Queen Street West.

Artist rendering of Lee Won’s studio and gallery. Jill Croteau/Global News

Won’s friend Marilyn Robak said she’s inspired by the artist who overcame so much.

Story continues below advertisement

“He was born in Seoul, South Korea and developed polio while the Korean war was breaking out,” Robak said. “Polio was twisting his spine. His father was a communist and was wanted by police so he fled to the north, and his mother was being hounded by police so she escaped to the United States and left him behind. He was eight years old.

“He had a tremendous spirit and a joy in life and an intellect, and you would never know he’s been though all those horrible things.”

Robak said she is proud of what he leaves behind.

“This gives people a chance to be who they want to be and maybe never even dreamed they could be, and what’s better than that?” she said.

NaAC CEO Jung-Suk Ryu said the partnership with Won’s family is so valuable to the community.

“The biggest challenge is not the artist, it’s the environment they have to fight to get exposure and recognition,” Ryu said. “This will break down a lot of barriers. It gives us the presence across the country and that is invaluable for artists with disabilities.”

Artist Hyunwoo Kim has his work being featured in a space inside Calgary’s “The Pioneer.” Kim is known as Pixel Kim.

Pixel Kim. Jill Croteau/Global News

The hope is this donation will help replicate these artist installments at Won’s Toronto gallery.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m happy. I make the best art and I am the best contemporary artist,” Kim said.

Pixel Kim’s work showcased in ‘The Pioneer’. Jill Croteau/Global News

NaAC will also be the direct beneficiary of proceeds from the sales of Won’s works, which range from $50,000 to $1 million in value.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

View Source