As part of its year-long 50th anniversary celebration, the Reece Museum presents Art by the Exceptional Child: Revisited from Dec. 16 through Feb. 9.

Soon after the museum opened its doors in 1965, the idea for a children’s art exhibition began to take shape.

The museum’s exhibit would focus on what was believed to be an “overlooked and underappreciated group: ‘exceptional’ children,” reads the exhibit label at the entryway to the gallery.

The exhibit label states that “exceptional child” is a broad term referring to children with learning and behavioral disorders or intellectual and/or physical disabilities.

“The idea for the exhibition was to celebrate the creativity of these young artists,” the label said, “and to instill a sense of pride in their accomplishments rather than focus on their disabilities.”

Originally exhibited and organized in 1969 by the Reece Museum and the Tennessee Department of Education, Art by the Exceptional Child featured works by special needs children from across the country.

The original show was comprised of submissions from schools, hospitals and institutions.

The popularity of the initial exhibition led to the curation of a second collection, both of which toured the country in the early 1970s. The exhibit became one of the most successful in the museum’s history.

Art by the Exceptional Child: Revisited showcases these remarkable artworks in a retrospective fashion.

The new show contains a selection of pieces from the original two shows, as well as original promotional materials, news clippings and correspondence that offer a glimpse into how the original exhibit was organized, exhibited and received.

“We chose to revisit Art by the Exceptional Child as part of our 50th anniversary, in part, because that exhibit was put together a short four years after the museum opened its doors in 1965,” said Randy Sanders, director of the Reece Museum.

Every piece featured in the exhibit targets the viewer in a different way, be it a vibrant color pallet or a compelling emotional appeal.

Viewers may also notice a reoccurring theme in the artworks surrounding issues of race, showing the relevance of the civil rights movement to the time period in which the original exhibit was curated.

“Most importantly, the artwork is vibrant and engaging, and reinforces the fact that each of us has a gift to share,” Sanders said.

A reception for Art by the Exceptional Child: Revisited will was held at the Reece Museum on Thursday, Jan. 21 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Reece Museum’s regular hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, and parking passes are available for weekday visitors.