The Fredericksburg Area Museum is opening a new exhibit that serves two purposes: to highlight the accomplishments of Sophia Pineda, a teenager who’s passionate about art and dancing, music and her family, and to educate the community about Down syndrome, which Sophia has.
The show is named “Constantly Becoming” and its opening reception is Oct. 5 from 5–8 p.m. at the museum on Princess Anne Street. The show runs through December and includes programs “that celebrate the true gift of the human spirit and the potential of people with disabilities,” according to FAM.
Sophia, who turns 15 on Oct. 9, is the perfect spokesperson for the event, which marks a first for the museum, said Melanie Johnson, the museum’s development and marketing officer.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to explore, not only her art and her story that relates to others in similar situations as hers, but I think it gives the museum an opportunity to really discuss the diversity in our community,” Johnson said. “Sophia’s wonderful. So much personality and spunk, it’s so great to see that, and she’s got such an amazing attitude.”
Known for her silly antics and nonstop talking, Sophia has blossomed into a happy and healthy teenager who relishes being in the spotlight. In a Free Lance–Star story in February, her father said, “She would be in her element if she had a camera following her everywhere, and she could tell everyone what to do.”
She’ll have two chances to soak up attention during the show. First is the meet-the-artist reception planned Oct. 5 from 5:30–7 p.m. at the museum. Second, on Oct. 13 from 11 a.m. to noon, families and children of all ages can learn about “Sophia and her art, become inspired and create their own colorful masterpiece,” according to FAM.
Things didn’t always look so rosy for the Fredericksburg teenager.
Her parents, Andre Pineda and Carol Kando-Pineda, weren’t sure she was going to survive at all after a routine pregnancy, about halfway through pregnancy, showed that Sophia had four separate heart-related birth defects, as well as Down syndrome.
Sophia got the care and operations she needed, including two open-heart surgeries before her second birthday. After her health stabilized, her parents sought avenues for her to express herself, and Sophia found her niche with Chinese watercolors. Her eye for color is obvious in her whimsical works of nature, including a green tree frog, long-armed octopus or round-faced owl with a full moon behind it.
Her parents have turned Sophia’a artwork into a business called “Sophiola,” their nickname for her. They’re thrilled that she’s been invited to her second formal art show—her first was in May at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington—but “we are also very excited that differently abled programming is part of the exhibit,” her father said.
Immediately after the reception, the museum will show “Intelligent Lives,” a documentary from Dan Habib that tells the story of three young adults with intellectual disabilities.
The museum will show another Habib documentary, “Mr. Connolly Has ALS,” on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. that showcases what it’s like to acquire a disability. The story is told through the eyes of Gene Connolly, a high school principal who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Seating is limited and RSVPs are recommended for both films. Contact 540/371-3037, ext. 138.
Another event in November will address those who have, as Andre Pineda calls it, different abilities, not disabilities. On Nov. 15, Mary Ford, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia, will present “From Isolation to Inclusion: Families Living with Intellectual Disability,” at 7 p.m. at the Historic Renwick Courthouse, 815 Princess Anne St.
Ford’s discussion is part of Fredericksburg Area Museum’s “Evening with an Expert” lecture series.