Celebrating Abilities

In late February while I was the Marbles Kids Museum 'Playdate Artist', I attended a workshop on teaching art to children with developmental and physical disabilities, presented by Betsy Ludwig, the Program Director of Arts Access, Inc.  The nonprofit organization, founded in 1982, is based in Raleigh, NC.  Its  mission is to ensure that the arts are enjoyed by everyone.

 Last month, Betsy asked me to assist with a kids' art project which involved developing an exhibit idea and guiding the kids and counselors through it at Raleigh's Camp Friendly.  The goal was to have the project displayed at the "Celebrating Abilities" art show, at Marbles Kids Museum.  I was honored to have been asked, and jumped in with both feet. 
Upper right: a bugs in the grass scene, using the melted
crayon technique. I love the wiggly worms!
My idea for the exhibit was an undersea theme, which was perfect; the campers were learning about ocean life during the weeks I was there (synchronicity!).  The campers painted three large boards which would become the water, along with papers which would be used for the ocean floor, seaweed, and fish.  Once all the painting was done, I cut a variety of fish shapes from the painted papers, and the kids had a great time decorating them! Next,it was time let the fish swim in the ocean where I had glued strips of the sand-colored paper on the bottom, and cut some "seaweed" for them to swim around.  After the kids placed the fish, I added some real shells and sand dollars. 

This is the first time I've taught children with disabilities, and while at first I was a bit dismayed that I didn't know anything about the campers or their abilities, I found that it was better for me to approach them as I would any other child.  Presenting the colorful fun and messiness of painting, and seeing what the kids did worked out just fine.  Some vignettes:

A child entered the room and lay on the floor, seeming to want to block out what we were doing.  When his counselor encouraged him and held his hand, he painted the seaweed green papers intently. Each time he completed one, he proudly presented it to me. After he was done, he went back to laying on the floor.   

Other campers didn't speak, but were able to paint and decorate multiple fish, and smiled while doing it. 

A girl shyly touched my hand and said hello when she remembered I'd been there the week before.  Her fish is decorated with many pom poms. 

I love the fish with feathers, and the orange one
about to take a bite out of the sand at the bottom.
I observed, guided, and stepped back to let them create, and here's a closeup of one of the finished pieces. The "Celebrating Abilities" exhibit will be up until September 30, and  I hope the kids will be able to go see their work on the walls of the museum...it's a thrill for any artist, isn't it?! 

I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. 


Penny A said…
How incredibly wonderful! ...for you, for them, and for the organization *to have your wonderful self on-board!* I love the work the kids did, and I LOVE your recollections of your time with them. You, ma'am, ROCK!
- p
Cathy said…
This is awesome, Michelle. Don't yoju just love working with kis and seeing art through their eyes. Maybe I can get you to visit my camp next year!

Michelle said…
I definitley do love working with kids, Cathy. Let's plan on working together next summer. I hope Marbles will make the 'Celebrating Abilities' a yearly event.