Minding the Gap

Minding the Gap

Sandal Gap Studio proves art is for everyone

Words by Mary Alayne B. Long

Well here we are in another year, 2022—and here I am, still writing for Good Grit Magazine. I’ve jumped around these pages the last few years, and now that I’ve landed in this spot I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. If you follow me on social media (@thealabamahousewife—look me up. I’m a hoot!) you will know from my profile that I’m a wannabe philanthropist. I dream daily of winning the lottery and giving it all away to excellent non-profit causes that are near and dear to my heart. Since I have never won a single thing in my life, there’s not much chance of that happening—however, my Good Grit family has so very graciously allowed me to share some of those favorite do-gooders with you here so that we can all join in and support them together. Of course, you’ll still have a dose of my sassy, bossy humor. I don’t know how to function without it. And you’ll learn about some really great people doing some really great work, and you’ll get to be a part of it all. Xoxo~ Mary Alayne

If you are at all familiar with the term “sandal gap,” you are likely also aware that it refers to the big space between the first and second toe of people who are born with Down Syndrome. What you may not know about is the absolutely amazing Texas-based art gallery with the same name. Sandal Gap Studio came into existence when Ace Eicher watched her sister Sevy use painting as a way to express herself and to communicate with the world around her.

Sevy spent the first twelve years of her life in a Bulgarian orphanage, and when she arrived in America with her new family, communication was a struggle. Once her mother put a paint brush in her hand, all of that changed. Her ability to express herself and share her feelings through her art amazed everyone around her. Today, Sevy’s art is owned by collectors worldwide, and her limited edition releases sell out in seconds.

Sevy is one of four children in her family with Archie, Radko, and Ace completing the picture. It was Ace who had the idea for Sandal Gap Studio, and her huge heart for inclusion would not be stopped. She saw the way her sister used her art and wondered if there was a place for other people with special needs to share their artistic work as well. There wasn’t, so the Eicher Family created one. It’s a place where everyone can get comfortable with differences, and where the journey of art can thrive through a non-profit lens.

Inclusion through art is not a new idea, and this method is not exclusive to Sandal Gap. What is important about this experience is that it takes place outside of a typical school setting and is available to all ages. Once a person with special needs has aged out of the public school system, the options available to them for daily activities are sadly limited. Activities that also allow them to earn a living are even less readily available. The artists at Sandal Gap not only have a place to go to continue their work, they also have an opportunity to market and sell their art as well. More importantly, they offer a space for the public to be exposed to the unique and common language of art used by so many of those who are non-verbal, like Sevy.

The studio literally fills the gap between society and the special needs community by providing a safe and welcoming place for these artists to be surrounded by understanding and acceptance. They’ve been breaking down barriers since day one and show no signs of stopping any time soon.

More recently, Sevy was featured on the Hi I’m_______ series with Discovery Plus. Hi I’m Sevy shares her gift of painting and showcases her natural talent for art that has had an overwhelming impact in the art world, all while helping her communicate and inspire hope regardless of the adversities she has faced along the way.

You can visit sandalgapstudio.org to make a donation, to shop for merchandise, and to purchase items from their Amazon wishlist—and if you’re near Houston, Texas, you can stop by for one of their Second Saturday viewings. That’s when they swing the doors wide open for everyone to come see work and shop pieces from each monthly theme of the art they present. But go fast—there’s always a crowd, and things tend to sell out quickly.

Mary Alayne’s Favorite Philanthropies

It’s so hard to choose only one special cause for each issue, so here’s a few other favorites for you to read about on your own time.