The roots of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) go back to 1957 when the painter Erich Stegmann and a small group of disabled artists from eight European countries created a self-help association in Britain.
A polio survivor, Erich Stegmann 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 painters with similar impairments 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 selling their work in the form of greetings cards, calendars, prints and illustrated books. The result has been a unique worldwide art movement and commercial cause.
One of the main themes of Stegmann’s credo was that the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists must never be regarded as a charity because many of its members were wheelchair users or even in hospital beds.
To him the key word was "partnership" – the word "charity" was as abhorrent to him as the word "pity" – and the MFPA has always proclaimed that it is not a charity and does not qualify for charitable assistance.
From the beginning its members have had full control of their enterprise, which enables them to enjoy a secure livelihood despite severe disabilities and has given them a purpose in life. Many have achieved international recognition through work produced with brushes held by their teeth or clenched between their toes.
To this day, the MFPA's motto in the United States remains: "Self Help - Not Charity"
Flowers for Linda
Mouth-painted by Cindi Bernhardt