Outside Sound connects artists with developmental disabilities and local musicians


The Center for Creative Works in Wynnewood, Montgomery County, is a huge building filled with hanging sculptures, color, and light. The center provides art and music workshops to adults with developmental disabilities.

Timothy O’Donovan has been painting beautiful landscapes at CCW for more than five years. He says he’s influenced by, “something that brings me back from my childhood memories of places I’ve been to.“

“This picture of New Orleans, Louisiana reminds me of where I used to live,” he said, pointing at a sprawling landscape of the city, “and it reminds me of the backdrop of the city and it’s nicknamed the Crescent City because of the curve of the Mississippi River.” 

A group called Outside Sound will feature a few of Timothy’s landscapes alongside other works created at CCW Wednesday night at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s central branch.

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Chris Coyle, the founder of Outside Sound, says the paintings will be displayed together in thematic slideshows and set to music. 

“When I started seeing the artwork and the depth of the artwork that was coming out of here it really inspired me to really use that for our music making,” Coyle said.

He was leading music workshops at the center back in 2011. As a jazz musician and composer, coming from the often self-conscious world of the conservatory, he was inspired by how freely the artists were able to express themselves.

“I think that as jazz musicians we kind of struggle to search for a way to be released,” Coyle said, “and sometimes we look at these other artists we’re working with, like man I wish I could just let loose.”

So he started Outside Sound in 2012 both to elevate his own music-making and also to showcase these artists, bring their work to wider audiences. Chris composes all the music that accompanies the artwork.

Paul Geiss also leads workshops at CCW and plays trumpet with the Outside Sound ensemble. 

“Making art is an empowerment tool for them,” Geiss said. “People might say because of a certain disability they might not be able to make a certain level of art and my experience has been they make incredible art both musically and visually.”

Outside Sound’s Free Library event will feature a live quintet performing alongside large-screen visuals of the artwork.

Coyle with the other members of the Outside Sound Quintet gave the artists at CCW a sneak preview of the show.

Paige Donovan watched on as one of her paintings came up on the screen.  “Beating inside your heart,” she said, “that’s what I feel.”

Coyle says his biggest goal is to show the public how rewarding collaborations can be that happen outside what’s expected.

“How can you work with any artist really, no matter what their background is, what their training is, and really work with other people to create and do really creative things,” he said.

The Outside Sound concert and gallery event is on Wednesday, September 16th at 6:30 pm at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Branch. For more information about Outside Sound, visit OutsideSound.net. 

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