Mouth and Foot Painting Artists
The roots of the British partnership of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists-the M.F.P.A. – go back to 1957 when the painter Eric Stegmann and the small band of handicapped artists from eight European countries creates a self-help association in Britain.
A polio victim, grew up without the use of his arms yet built a highly successful career in Germany by painting with a mouth-held brush. It was his belief that if artists who paint by using their mouths or feet formed a cooperative, it would be possible for them to live by their artistic efforts and enjoy a sense of work security that until then had eluded them. This aim was to be achieved by the marketing of their work in the form of greeting cards, calendars, prints and illustrated books. The result has been a unique worldwide at the moment.
One of the main themes of Stegmann’s credo was that the new international Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists must never be regarded as a charity because many of its members were in wheelchairs or even hospital beds. To him the key word was partnership-the word ‘charity’ was as abhorrent to him as the word ‘pity’-and the Association is always proclaimed, that it is not a charity and does not qualify for charitable assistance.
All members of the international partnership are similarly chronically disabled, and all benefit from the satisfaction of earning their own money, independent of charity. In order to become full members (partners), their work must be of a standard that can compete on aesthetic and commercial grounds with that of conventional artists. Once achieving member artist status, they are guaranteed a substantial income for life, even if they are unable to continue to paint. This this provided from income derived from the sale of their works as greetings cards, calendars and other merchandise.Sales income also provides scholarships for mouth or foot painting artists, who may not at first attain the standards required of a member, so that their abilities can be developed and encouraged. In addition, grants are made for special equipment and treatment in some circumstances.This unique worldwide cooperative is managed and administered entirely under the control and supervision of the members, all artists without the use of their hands.In the UK, they operate a partnership called mouth and foot painting artists (M.F.P.A.), which is part of the international cooperative. At present the Association has 802 artists in 76 countries and makes no distinction between nationality, race or creed. There are currently five members, three associate members and 30 students in the UK, and the M.F.P.A. actively seek new students and members of the time.The artists all reviews charity, choosing to retain their self-respect by competing on equal terms with able-bodied artists; they are at pains to ensure that there Association is understood as a business and not confused with charitable organisations, thus colouring appreciation of the art by sentiment.
The successful sale of their products in a highly competitive marketplace helps to secure, for the artists, an independent lifestyle that enhances the pursuit of their creative work, free from financial anxiety. To this end, the artists own their own publishing companies, or appoint publishers to manufacture, distribute and sell the products featuring the work. They also retain financial and legal experts to watch over their affairs and have been successful in keeping Administration costs down to around nine percent of the sales income.Dr Richard Hiepe, an eminent art historian once said;‘This Association ranks among one of the most auspicious social ventures of our times. Not so very long ago such painters were spoken of merely as rare marvels or as singular examples of heroic self conquest. Only recently, and due to the activities of the A.M.F.P.A. Have they, and their work, become a general concept’.‘ One has to bear in mind the road that leads to their creations-the physical and emotional distress from which they rise. Frequently the loss of hands is not the only misfortune: often illness and suffering of which the healthy world has barely a concept, constantly accompany their existence. Artistic work is a liberation for those so inflicted. The artist by virtue of their work become new and integrated beings…’‘ The Association renders the artists independent from all the misery of publicly conducted charity. But more significantly, it inspires them with the awareness of a constructive life achieved through personal effort and building an independent existence. They accomplish this through their art-once more with their life in their own hands’.For further information please go to;