Artists ‘Rise Up’ above their disabilities at Jersey City exhibit

David McCauley can barely move his right hand and can’t move the fingers on his left. But the Jersey City resident is moving crowds with his art and his drive to “Rise Up” above his disability.

In 2008, McCauley sustained a spinal cord injury during a diving accident which left him paralyzed from the chest down. With support from his loved ones and innovative body weight support training, McCauley has been able to improve his health and managed to find new ways to express himself.

McCauley takes photographs and has them printed on canvas before laying them on cut-up, recycled skateboards (the former Coloradan and Australian rode boards on waves, snow and streets before his injury). Sometimes the resulting mosaics spell short, powerful words like “hope” or “love.”

“My finger dexterity isn’t great, so it’s difficult to paint,” said McCauley. “But mosaics – this is something I can do!”

Recently, McCauley received the New Jersey Hero award for his work through his foundation Rise Up to Cure Paralysis. He founded its off-shoot, the Rise Up Gallery, in June so he and other disabled artists could showcase their work.

“We noticed that at several fundraising events, one of the most effective fundraisers were our art auctions. So I thought, ‘Why can’t we turn this into our flagship program because it’s our most successful?'” he said.

At the Jersey City City Hall Rotunda Gallery, art lovers will be able to buy paintings, photography and other work by Rise Up Gallery artists.

“I think that people will just enjoy the art,” said McCauley, who hoped it would raise awareness about paralysis.

“I hope it goes to show how people can help, whether it’s not parking in a handicapped parking spot at a grocery store or going out and actually volunteering for an organization like us,” he said.

Proceeds from the event will go towards Quality of Life grants for disabled individuals, research to cure paralysis and a studio for artists with disabilities.

“We’re trying to create an adaptive art studio for other people living with disabilities,” said McCauley. “They can come and create and get their mind off their injury and just have a bright, fun creative space.”

The Rise Up Gallery exhibition will be on display from Dec. 3 through Dec. 31 at the City Hall Rotunda Gallery, 280 Grove St., Jersey City. Admission is a suggested donation of $20, which can be used toward a tax-deductible art purchase. An opening reception will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served. For more information, visit

By Summer Dawn Hortillosa / The Jersey Journal

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