It’s their major show of the season, so the budding artists and crafters work intently in their studio getting their masterpieces ready for an exhibit and possible sale.
This could be the scenario at any area art school or university, but these artists at the Day Development Program at First Hospital, Kingston, are not just learning how to paint or make a beaded bracelet, they’re learning social skills to help them in life.
And they’re experiencing something more important: a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with the art of creating. That will continue to grow as the public views their work.
The 20 students, ranging in age from 21 to 60, at the Arts through Abilities program will have their works displayed at Mainstreet Galleries, 370 Pierce St., Kingston, beginning today and continuing throughout May during regular gallery hours. The items will be available for sale.
The students have intellectual disabilities, ranging from cerebral palsy to autism. Stacey Williams, program supervisor, said the art studies were incorporated into the curriculum for skill development and socialization. She said the students enjoy the opportunity to paint and create. The art show, which takes place every spring, is the culmination of their studies.
By taking a project from beginning, such as purchasing supplies, to completion, such as packing it up for delivery to an art gallery, Margaret Mould-Cooney, art-program supervisor, said, the students are learning valuable skills.
“They must interact with each other and also accept some criticism,” Williams said. “Sometimes I have to tell them to redo something, and they have to accept that they must start over and learn to do it correctly. They also get a chance to build friendships. A lot of them have elderly parents or live in group homes, so this is their main social outlet.”
The work includes paintings in acrylics and mixed media, collages, pottery, clay, jewelry, such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces, and knitted items such as scarves. Much of the work centers on the Woodstock movement of the 1960s and includes peace signs and flowers.
“They get a huge sense of pride from this,” Moulder-Cooney said. “They just glow when they see their work on display. They have a reason to be proud, and it’s a huge accomplishment.”
The instructor tries to involve the students in the decision-making process as much as she can. That’s why she takes them shopping to buy the art supplies. “I let them select the colors they want in paints and the types of beads they want to use for jewelry making,” she said.
The key to her teaching is to be consistent in the approach. “A lot of the work is repetitive,” she said. “They can do this, but they do need to be instructed. I do like to vary what they do from time to time so they can learn more.”
Many of the students are very talented and creative, Moulder-Cooney said, adding, “I have one student who is very meticulous about her artwork and jewelry. She has an incredible sense of color and takes pride in what she does.”
Another student, who has autism, hand-sews beads on fabric by himself.
The Day Development Program’s art studio will use the proceeds to buy future supplies.