Former student helps the disabled learn art

By Angela Le Quieu, Staff Reporter | Photos by Angela Le Quieu and Daniel Johnson

Artist Derick Smith shows off his Poison Ivy Paintings.
Photo by Angela Le Quieu
Artist Derick Smith shows off his Poison Ivy Paintings.
Photo by Daniel Smith Desiree Smith Dresses as 'Hellbabe, by Smith
Photo by Daniel Smith
Desiree Smith Dresses as ‘Hellbabe, by Smith

Local Albuquerque artist and former student, Derick Smith works for the Very Special Arts (VSA) organization dedi­cated to arts, education and disability at the North Fourth Art Center, located at 4904 Fourth St. NW, where he helps people in the Day Arts Program who have developmental disabilities to realize their art potential and how to cope through creativity.

Smith teaches and mentors people who are in the Developmental Disability Waiver Program providing educa­tion and training, and who want to use their free time to pro­duce art to become actual artists, he said.

“I love it, because all these guys with special needs are so much more interesting than normal people—they are awe­some,” Smith said.

Smith said that some of the things that he had expe­rienced from instructors at CNM have helped him with his abilities to teach the people that he works with now, and not only does he help others to improve their skills, but he also produces and sells his own art.

The VSA North Fourth Art Center is a contempo­rary art venue that has a specific mission to bring the arts to all people, no matter their ability, age, culture or income level, through the Day Arts Program.

According to, gives an array of artistic learning options; from visual and performing arts, to liter­ary art instruction, and even gives participants the oppor­tunity for exhibit showings and promotion of the artist’s finished works.

Smith said that he helps to set up supplies people will need in order to work on their projects, and to help students with anything else that they need, which includes instructing them to on how to be better artists.

“Basically being that it’s an entire art program for these guys, it’s really cool, it’s really awesome that they can go to, and express themselves artistically, and a hang out and social­ize,” Smith said.

Smith attended CNM while it was TVI right after his high school graduation in 2000, and went on to finish his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at UNM, he said.

“The thing about degrees is that all it really does is help you get in and everything else just kind of happens,” Smith said.

However, from his time at TVI he picked up skills that he is able to impart to others like how a grey scale works, and how to apply that when painting something like the human eye, in which the whites of the eye are not really white but several shades of grey, Smith said.

For his own art work, Smith said he prefers to do things that are figurative, which means that his works are very close to how images would actually look in real life, but he also likes to include some aspects of impressionism, in which things are made more abstract.

He also enjoys doing work based on comic books, which he often sells at comic book conventions, such as a current series of paintings that feature the Batman character Poison Ivy, Smith said.

“I really like comics and I like art, so if I can do things for conventions then that’s awesome,” Smith said.

One of his sub­jects for his comic book themed art pieces is his girl­friend, Nursing major, Desiree Smith, who has a persona called ‘Hellbabe,’ which is based on the comic character Hellboy.

He said that she has modeled for her boyfriend many times in the past, and has been captured by the Chronicle in her full Hellbabe motif cre­ated by Smith at the 2013 Albuquerque Comic Expo.

“I don’t really like him, but the art work is good enough that I keep him around,” she said jokingly about Smith.

The next comic book convention that Smith’s artwork is intended to be shown at is the Albuquerque Comic Expo, which is scheduled for Friday, June 27 to Sunday, June 29, he said.

Smith’s art can also be found periodically at the Metropolis Art Gallery at 1102 Mountain Rd. NW, Smith said.

Smith said that there are also opportunities at VSA North Fourth Street Art center for people who have both an interest in art and a desire to help others.

For more information on programs or how to help out, go to the VSA North Fourth Street Art website at, or call 345-2872.