It was supposed to be a temporary art exhibition by artists with disabilities.

Ten years later that exhibit, called Art Beyond Boundaries, has grown into a professional, mainstream fine-art exhibition venue where artists with disabilities display, market and sell their artwork.

Art Beyond Boundaries had humble beginnings. The original exhibit was slated for a two-weekend run in an empty storefront at Seventh and Vine streets, says founder Lin Laing, executive director of the Center for Independent Living Options.

The original exhibit, featuring works of art created by artists with disabilities, was set up to coincide with ArtsWave’s Fine Arts Sampler weekend in 2005, she says. 

The idea for the exhibit started when Laing talked to several consumers at the Center for Independent Living Options who were artists with disabilities. The Center for Independent Living Options provides support services for people with all types of disabilities from birth to death, she says.

The artists said they were seeking an opportunity to show their art, she says. “It’s not that easy if you’re an unknown to get to show your art anywhere, and especially if you happen to have a disability,” says Laing.

“The perception is, and this is what we’ve been trying to overcome, that if you have a disability you’re not quite as good as an artist without a disability,” she says.

But that first exhibit shattered the perception that artists with disabilities weren’t as good as those without a disability. The exhibit was a hit with the public. 

“It was extremely overwhelming,” says Jymi Bolden, gallery director of Art Beyond Boundaries. 

So the group decided to put on another exhibit the following month. Laing asked the owners of the building if they could keep the space to display more art by artists with disabilities. They agreed. “We were really lucky to be blessed with very generous landlords,” says Bolden.

The group was able to use the space for nearly a year before the building’s landlord secured a new tenant. The Art Beyond Boundaries group then bought a building at 1410 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, where it is still located.

“At the time we moved in down on Main Street [Over-the-Rhine] was not what it is today,” says Laing. “Not at all.”

Now the Art Beyond Boundaries gallery is a destination for people, she says. “We’re known for good art,” says Laing.

Bolden says, “Here I like to always tell people, ‘You won’t find disabilities on these walls, you’ll find ability on our walls.’ And we don’t define our people by their disabilities, as some people do. They’re known by and about their art here at Art Beyond Boundaries.”

Now, says Laing, people are surprised to find out the artwork at Art Beyond Boundaries is created by artists with disabilities. “That was exactly what we wanted to do,” she says.

One of the most popular exhibits, titled “Changing Perceptions: Déjà Vu,” includes artists with and without disabilities. Those who attend the exhibit Oct. 30 through Dec. 23 won’t know which artists have disabilities and which ones don’t, says Laing.

“That’s the whole point,” she says. “It’s changing the perception of what an artist with a disability is like.”