Vista Arts Center was recently featured on an episode of a web-based series called Talking Autism.Talking Autism is an original series produced by the Goodster™ Media Channel. This series is hosted by Nina Martin, a licensed social worker and mother of a 10-year-old boy who is on the spectrum. Talking Autism covers topics such as myths about autism, the initial diagnosis, different types of therapies for sensory integration, jobs and adulthood. Nina and her crew visited Vista Arts Center’s visual arts classes for the episode titled Artistic Expression “to see how art classes are a visual tool for communication, a window to the imagination and a motivation to make connections for people on the autism spectrum.” (Goodster™)
There are different ways to define Artistic Expression and why it is important. Nina acknowledges that creating art can be a powerful way for those on the spectrum to explore self-expression and creativity, while creating a sense of community. Jeanean Cox, Program Manager of the Vista Arts Center, describes that students are able to establish their own voice through the creation of art, to share a piece of themselves while embracing their uniqueness and independence. Kelley Kapfer, Art Instructor, notes that she sees the art classes as a form of continued education and a way for students to have the freedom to express themselves in new ways. Students say that they get to be themselves in the art classes, which are also great learning experiences. How does the Vista Arts Center make all of this happen?
Art classes at Vista Arts Center provide students with freedom of expression in regards to their projects, while still implementing specific requirements. As Kelley Kapfer says, there is “freedom in limitation,” especially with those on the spectrum. Kelley encourages students to strive for creativity beyond the obvious, by modeling techniques and styles and reminding students to consider spatial relationships and to think about what the final product will look like. The classes help to get students to step outside of their comfort zone, while still catering to the different needs and limits of the students. The art classes also help to build the students’ self-esteem and confidence, even outside of the classroom. Many students have been involved in selling their artwork at shows throughout the community, which not only often results in monetary compensation for them, but also allows for another level of self-expression and social interaction that they may not have otherwise explored.
The experience at Vista Arts Center is reflected through a piece of artwork depicting a school of fish. 32 students worked together to make this large piece, which is now proudly displayed in the conference room at Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center. Jeanean describes the message of the piece as “we’re all in this together.” Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center and Vista Arts Center become like a second family for many of the students, giving them a voice, an outlet for expression, an opportunity to connect with others and to make lasting friendships. The Vista Arts Center exemplifies what can be possible for those on the spectrum when they use art as a form of connection, education, and expression.
To watch the video, please visit: http://www.mygoodster.com/tv/talking-autism-episode-8-artistic-expression/
The mission of the Vista Arts Center is to provide quality arts programming to a diverse, adult population that promotes self-expression and learning in a nurturing, noncompetitive environment.
Based in Madison and Westbrook, CT, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center is a 501©3 nonprofit organization. Vista’s mission is “Providing services and resources to assist individuals with disabilities achieve personal success.”
For more information regarding Vista, please visit www.vistavocational.org