QUINCY — A new exhibit, open for the public at the Quincy Art Center, focuses on living with invisible chronic illnesses and the bond between the artist and her service dog.

Oaklee Thiele is a New York-based artist and disability rights advocate. In 2020, Thiele partnered with DisArt, a production company and arts and culture organization, to create the My Dearest Friends Project, an interactive art collaboration to archive the work of disabled artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exhibit, titled "This is How We Came to Be: A Handler’s Bond with her Service Dog," showcases pieces created by Thiele as a reflection of her relationship with her medical service animal.

Thiele regularly delivers public speeches on the topics of art and Disability to various nonprofits and schools.

"My work has helped me to come to terms with my diagnoses," Thiele said in a statement. "It has allowed me to preserve myself as a human being despite existing in a body that is on a consistent physical and mental decline."

Overcoming obstacles and defying expectations, Thiele creates large-scale work to express her views of the world.

"My ever-fluctuating physical state impacts the production process," Thiele's statement says. "Depending on my pain and energy levels, I build impermanent custom tools that allow me to work in a large scale despite physical limitations."

The exhibit is available online at quincyartcenter.org, as well as in person at the Art Center, 1515 Jersey in Quincy. Exhibit hours are Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and by private appointment. Private viewings can be scheduled by calling 217-223-5900. Masks and social distancing requirements remain in place at the Art Center.

In addition to Thiele's work, the Art Center is also exhibiting pieces from the Permanent Collection. Holding over 400 pieces from regional and national artists, the Quincy Art Center's Permanent Collection includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, and posters. The Permanent Collection is the largest such visual arts collection by a non-profit organization in Adams County.

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