David McCauley lived like a brash X Games competitor before the accident, grinding skateboards on benches in New York, surfboarding in Fiji and Tahiti, snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains. In 2008, that all ended with a smack at the bottom of a swimming pool. During a friend’s birthday party in the East Hamptons in New York, McCauley dove into the pool, struck his head on the concrete and snapped his neck.
It’s also where McCauley’s art career began: In the months of intensive care and physical rehab that followed, he found kinship with art therapy, flexing his weakened arm and hand muscles by applying paint to canvas.
“I think it was both a distraction and a healing, because you’re hitting the gym so hard, and [physical therapy] gets rammed down your throat,” says McCauley, of Miami Beach, who was paralyzed from the chest down. “It’s down time, like recess after match class in school.”
Art therapy will be a strong focus of the programming at Laundromat Art Space, the new gallery he’s opening with a handful of local artists on Friday, July 17 in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. A block from the Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center and four blocks from popular Churchill’s Pub and Sweat Records, the 4,500 square-foot gallery, converted from an old laundromat, will house studio spaces for nine artists, including McCauley’s nonprofit Rise Up to Cure Paralysis.