The display for the Howard County Arts Council's latest exhibition isn't fussy. The vibrant paintings and sketches are simply matted and held up on the white walls with clear pushpins. Most of the works are no bigger than a sheet of paper.

The pieces, which range from abstract to realist, are intensely personal creations by teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities. The largest work, a decorated banner that stretches across the back wall of the gallery, bears a slogan that sums up the spirit of the collection:

"The true beauty of art is its inability to be defined by conventional means. . . . Art is indeed shaped by the diversity it possesses."

The annual exhibit, titled "No Boundaries," opened last week at the arts council's Ellicott City gallery. The works were created this year by students in the county Department of Recreation and Parks's six-week therapeutic arts programs.

"You don't want to relegate the work of any community arts program to a hallway in your building," said Amy Poff, the arts council's deputy director. "You want to celebrate that in a positive gallery environment."

The arts council has provided gallery space for the students' work for about a dozen years, said Cathy Vigus, the program's director. An opening reception for this year's exhibit is scheduled for tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at the gallery. Poff said she expects 100 to 250 people to attend.

The students have a variety of disabilities, including autism and mental retardation. Many of the pieces hint at their perspectives on the world. A scrambled and colorful portrait by Eric Walderman is titled "The Supreme Something Else," while another of his works, bathed in red, is called "Confusions of a Heart." Walderman, one of the program's most prolific artists, has been displaying works for several years, Vigus said.

Other pieces are more prosaic. Student Randi Penenburgh created an abstract painting titled "Shrek," after the popular animated movie. Another student brushed broad swatches of color onto the large exhibit banner, which also includes the words "love," "sing" and "Britney Spears."

"You really do see individual people through them so much," Poff said. "I have kind of come to know them through that artwork over time."

The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 12 at the gallery, at 8510 High Ridge Rd. It will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.