Decatur, GA – Ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark “Olmstead” decision made it possible for mentally disabled persons to live within their communities rather than state mental hospitals, 41-year-old LOIS CURTIS is all smiles, loving her life beyond locked doors and high fences.
A self-taught artist, Curtis spent much of her life in various mental institutions. Following denial of numerous requests to live in her community, she initiated a lawsuit against the state of Georgia. In July, 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ‘unnecessary institutionalization’ amounted to segregation and violated individuals’ civil rights. Her case established a national mandate to free tens of thousands of people with disabilities from institutionalization.
Today, Ms. Curtis receives community-based support and enjoys life outside the confines of institutional living. Her artistic talent and passion for creativity have motivated her to make art and advocacy her life’s work. Her artwork, typically done in pastels and acrylics, are heartfelt, bold expressions of how deeply she values personal relationships. They are mainly portraits, capturing intense emotions with simple lines and bold colors. “I feel good about myself. Sometimes I put my mind on the earth and go to the future where my art pictures are on the wall. People would love to see my pretty art pictures because they will take them to heaven and hug them forever,” says Ms. Curtis. Her supporters have arranged for dozens of art shows in the Atlanta area, and she is now an invited speaker to conferences nationwide. PICTURED: Lois revisits the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta where she spent much of her life prior to 1999. She is with Sue Jamieson, the Atlanta Legal Aid attorney who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.