JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Center

During the week of May 22-29, 2017, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of John F. Kennedy, in celebration of JFK’s 100th birthday. Below are pieces of art selected from the VSA Permanent Collection, which illustrate the five enduring ideals embodied by JFK: COURAGE, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, SERVICE, and GRATITUDE. We welcome you to celebrate #JFKC with us all week on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

SERVICE

vsa1997.002_chandRadhika Chand began making art as a young child to help develop her fine motor skills—one part of a program designed to minimize the symptoms of Down syndrome. Chand continued to make art when she saw the positive effect that her work had on others. As she said of her first solo exhibition, which took place in Delhi in 1992, “that made me feel happy, good and fulfilled because I could do something which gave others so much joy.”

Having grown up in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Hong Kong, and Sydney, Chand’s exposure to diverse cultures and countries has influenced her work. Her abstract paintings, a combination of watercolors and acrylic paint, are a spontaneous response to the world around her.

Radhika Chand
Redflower, 1997
Watercolor and acrylic (19 in x 28 in)

COURAGE

vsa1986.001_pepion3

Ernie Pepion grew up working on his family ranch on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. In 1971, after a car accident rendered him quadriplegic, Pepion began painting. He studied painting at Montana State University, and developed a substantial body of work by 1991, when the Missoula Museum of the Arts recognized his achievements with the retrospective, Ernie Pepion: Dreams on Wheels, the first major solo exhibition of a contemporary American Indian artist in a Montana museum.

For Pepion, painting allows him to be “…a person beyond the limitations of racial prejudice and disability.” His work does this by offering dreamlike scenes and improbable scenarios. This can be seen in Buffalo Hunter (1986), which depicts Pepion hunting buffalo from his wheelchair/hobby horse turned steed.

Ernie Pepion
Buffalo Hunter, 1986
Oil on canvas (47 in x 52 in)

FREEDOM

vsa2000.001_jakovics

Maria Jankovics was born in 1949 in Budapest, Hungary, just before the collapse of the Hungarian Republic. In 1956 her family fled the country during the Hungarian Revolution for Montreal, Canada, where Jankovics began studying art. Jankovic’s work draws on her cultural heritage and experience with illness that began when she contracted scarlet fever at age four. As seen in Dragonfly, she often borrows imagery from her mother’s Jewish and her father’s Catholic faiths, using images and text that recall illustrated books for children. Her work is bright, energetic, and playful, but also conveys themes of physical suffering, anxiety, and political strife. As Jankovics explains, “My paintings are very colorful with a sense of anguish, irony but with a ray of hope and a bit of humor. The work has a childlike quality all coming from my imagination.”

Maria Jankovics
Dragonfly, 2000
Collograph (36 in x 26.5 in)

GRATITUDE

vsa2011.007_frankAs a young adult, Alyce Frank moved to New Mexico where the landscape made a deep impression upon her. “New Mexico was so powerful and demanding that the way I made peace with it was to paint it,” she explains in Joseph Dispenza’s book The Magical Realism of Alyce Frank. Frank became a prominent figure in the southwestern art community, and pioneered a style that she would term “Taos expressionism.” Taos expressionism draws its stylistic elements, such as color palette and paint handling, from the expressionist painters and its subject matter from the dramatic southwestern landscape.

Alyce Frank
Hayfields – Arroyo Hondo, 1990
Serigraph (30 in x 22.5 in)

JUSTICE

vsa2011.037_yamagataIn 1989 artist Hiro Yamagata began his ongoing association with VSA when he was commissioned to design a poster for the first International VSA Festival, which exhibited the work of artists with disabilities from numerous countries. Invited to serve on the Board of Directors, the artist also helped established the Yamagata International Visual Arts Institute and Fellowship, an annual arts program that selected international artists with disabilities and teachers to study adaptive techniques and develop their work at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington. In 1993 he was awarded the first annual Freedom of Expression Award for his contributions to VSA.

Hiro Yamagata
Statue of Liberty, n.d.
Serigraph (68 in x 41 in)

January 2017 VSA Webinar: “The Design and Use of Inclusive Surveys in Arts Programs”

Every day you make decisions based on some type of information. Learn how to do it more systematically, reliably, and inclusively for arts programming with some tips and strategies from the Research and Evaluation team at the Kennedy Center!

In this webinar, we will present some tips for good question writing, and some strategies for more inclusive survey design and administration. We will explore the big ideas about why language choice for questions is important for reliability and accuracy, as well as how variation in answers can be productively used to understand and improve programs. As take-away resources, we will share checklists for Survey Design and Universal Design for Evaluation

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

november-webinar-blog-video

Presenters:

The panelists are from the Kennedy Center’s Research and Evaluation Team, Bina Ali and Don Glass.

 

 


Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?

Meet the 2017 VSA International Young Soloists Award Winners

This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program that recognizes talented, emerging artists ages 14-25 with disabilities from all over the world. The four young musicians who have been named winners of the 2017 award are: pianist Elliott McClain, age 23, from Nashville, Tennessee; Kohlin Sekizawa, a 17-year-old pianist from Davis, California; 21-year-old mezzo-soprano Natalie Sheppard of Cincinnati, Ohio; and Jessica Tucker, a 21-year-old saxophonist from Carson City, Nevada.

Photo of a man with brown wavy hair, a dark collared shirt, and a dark blazer.Elliott McClain, age 23, is a pianist and graduate student at Belmont University in Nashville studying commercial music performance. He is an independent artist and musician, specializing in jazz and popular forms of music for live performance and session recording. Blind since birth, Elliott started playing piano as soon as he discovered a keyboard, and has been known ever since for his exceptional aural and improvisational skills. A recipient of the Woods Piano Scholarship, he has performed with Belmont’s top jazz ensembles, and has been a guest performer in many of Nashville’s most prestigious venues. Elliott is the 2016 VSA Tennessee Young Soloist Award winner.

Photo of a young man with a black collared shirt with silver tie, sitting at a piano.Kohlin Sekizawa, age 17, is a high school junior in Davis, California. He has been taking piano lessons for 12 years with Mrs. Huei-Ping Chen Lin. Kohlin, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, has won numerous local and statewide piano competitions, and performed in the honor recitals of the Music Teachers’ Association of California and the California Association of Professional Music Teachers. Last year, he earned a Paderewski Gold Medal from the American College of Musicians. He is currently playing the harpsichord and the violin in the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble, and he performed J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto with them in April 2017. Besides music, he enjoys basketball and tennis in TEAM DAVIS, a Special Olympics program.

Photo of a young woman with long, black hair, green eyes, and red lips wearing a shirt with purple and blue flowers.Natalie Sheppard, age 21, is a mezzo-soprano from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, receiving a scholarship to study voice under William McGraw, as well as pursuing studies in International Human Rights. Natalie has performed roles including Dido from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and will sing Cherubino from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro this summer in Berlin. She has worked with composers such as Jake Heggie and Libby Larsen at the prestigious SongFest art song festival in Los Angeles, California, and will return this summer as a Colburn Fellow in the Young Artist Program. Natalie, who has anxiety disorders and depression, has recently been recognized by Aspen Opera Theatre, the Opera Guild of Dayton, Cincinnati Three Arts Foundation, and Classical Singer, and has sung on stages around the world.

Photo of a young woman with long, dark hair wearing a black dress and holding a saxophone.Jessica Tucker is a 21-year-old classical saxophonist from Carson City, Nevada. She has performed across the United States and Canada, including in Vancouver, Seattle, Reno, San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Jessica was born with amblyopia in her right eye, which renders it effectively blind. She graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelors of Music in saxophone performance from the University of North Texas, studying under Dr. Eric Nestler. While at the University of North Texas, Jessica performed with the North Texas Wind Symphony under the direction of Eugene Corporon, and can be heard on several of their recordings. She will begin her Masters in saxophone performance this fall at the Russian Academy of Music, Gnesin.

These four young artists receive a $2,000 cash prize and travel to Washington, D.C. for a performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on May 25 at 6:00 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public, and will be streamed live online at www.kennedy-center.org/millennium; a recording of the concert will be available for viewing after May 25 in the Millennium Stage online archive.

In Amazement Square art program, students ask, “How Can I Help?”

A girl with black hair and a burgandy sweatshirt holds an art project made of cardboard boxes.

A student from the Amazement Square program shows off her creation.

Students who live in rural areas may not have access to the same kinds of cultural resources as their peers in metropolitan areas. For their VSA Visual Arts Discovery Program contract, staff at Amazement Square in Lynchburg, Virginia, sought out students with disabilities living in more isolated areas. Thanks to Amazement Square’s teaching artists and their expertise in using the museum’s Visual Arts Outreach Program framework, students with disabilities all over Central Virginia are having valuable arts learning experiences in their own classrooms.

According to Gwyn Tatum, director of education and programs at Amazement Square, opportunities for cultural engagement are very limited for students with disabilities in Central Virginia. The children’s museum jumped at the opportunity to expand their outreach to this community.

“We specifically reached out to schools that are far in the countryside, with students who are not going on field trips, so we can bring them lessons,” says Tatum, adding that their instructors are driving an hour or more to the school sites for the visual art residencies.

A girl with brown hair and a striped shirt holds an art project made of cardboard and plastic cups.

A student holds her creation from the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

Caitlin Seaman, one of the lead instructors for the Visual Art Outreach Program, says the teaching artists have been using two lessons from VSA’s 2016-2017 Teacher Resource Guide in their sessions with the students. Seaman says the “How Can I Help?” lesson, which focuses on the idea of service to one’s community, inspired the students to think outside the box.

“I was amazed with what [the students] came up with,” says Seaman, continuing, “…they had tons of ideas about problems in the world and many wonderful inventions for how to address the problems.” Seaman found the lesson worked best over the course of two one-hour sessions, so that they had enough time to make modifications as needed and ensure a meaningful experience for every child.

The “How Can I Help?” lesson is available on the VSA blog and on pages 9-15 of VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide. More information about Amazement Square is available on their website.

“How Can I Help?” – A visual art lesson plan from the VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide

A robot made of clay with a red top, square body, and striped legs.

A clay sculpture inspired by the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

In this lesson, students investigate possible solutions for concerns and/or needs in their community. They will design and create a machine to serve their community by addressing this need. The machine sculptures will be made out of clay or from found objects.

NOTE: This is an abridged version of the “How Can I Help?” lesson plan. To view the complete version, including in-depth adaptations and modifications for students with disabilities, example artworks, and a vocabulary list, see pages 9-15 of VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide.

GRADE LEVEL: K – 12
EXPECTED LENGTH: 2 – 3 class periods

MATERIALS
For clay sculpture:
Clay tools – simple tools such as plastic knives and forks
Clay mats
Acrylic paint
Newspaper

For found object sculpture:
Recycled materials (cardboard tubing, plastic bottles, cardboard)
Embellishments
Glue/Glue gun
Scissors

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
Art Making: Students will create a machine that can solve one of the world’s problems using found objects or clay and exemplifying the artistic principle of unity.

Critical Inquiry: Students will investigate how the title character of Wall-E was designed and created to solve a problem in the fictional society created in the movie.

Art History Inquiry: Students will reflect on the art- making of Michael Rakowitz and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. and how the artists talked and listened to the individuals they worked with (in other words – did research) in order to create their art.

Aesthetic Inquiry: Students will uncover how art can be an agent for social change through their examination of the stories behind the creations of Tim Rollins + K.O.S. and Michael Rakowitz.

PREPARE/DISCUSS
Show a clip of Wall-E that establishes the reason for Wall-E’s existence. Point out the vast and lonely landscape. Ask: Where are the people? Why would Wall-E be alone? Who created Wall-E and why?

Begin to generate ideas of problems we need to solve. What are some of the challenges that you or others must face each day? How could these challenges be made easier? Consider investigating topics being covered in other academic areas (e.g. if science class is addressing climate change). Make a brainstorming list on the board. Be prepared to pepper the list with suggestions to expand ideas. Record (or have a student record) this list for future reference.

Share the work of Michael Rakowitz and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. Highlight the research aspect of their work. Both artists asked questions and honored the voices of community members in their artistic process. In advocacy communities, this approach is embodied by the slogan: “Nothing about us without us,” which implies that people doing services that affect others (for example, policymakers) should do that service with the people it affects, not for them. Have students share times when things have been done “for them” but “without them.” Has someone ever helped you with your chair when you didn’t need it? Or answered a question for you without asking your opinion?

Revisit the brainstormed list created at the beginning. Who do we need to talk to and what do we need to ask in order to find out what is really needed?

A sculpture made of plastic cups, pom poms, and styrofoam balls.

A found object sculpture inspired by the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

METHODS/CREATE
Students should begin by identifying the problem they wish to address and thinking about a machine that could solve it. They should focus on how the machine would work, and what this will tell them about its design. For example, if the machine is designed to plant wild flowers on highway medians to support the Monarch butterflies during their migration, it might need something to rough up the soil to prepare for the seeds, something to sprinkle the seeds onto the dirt and something to water the seeds to help them start to germinate.

Choose the studio—clay construction or found object. Base your decision on either your access to the materials (clay construction will require access to a kiln), or the issue being addressed. For example, if investigating the concern for the excess trash that has created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the use of recycled materials for the artwork would be most relevant.

Clay Construction

  1. Construct slabs of clay. Using a rolling pin, roll out clay with even pressure until it is 3/8” thick. Consider making the slabs in advance so the clay begins to dry out, which will make it easier to construct the machine.
  2. Create a base. Cut out shapes from a slab in the shape students want their machines to be: a square, rectangle or circle. If a square or rectangle is selected, then sides can be cut out using the base as a guide for the width of the pieces (2 for each dimension). If a circle is the base, a slab can simply be cut into a rectangle the length of the circumference of the circle.
  3. Prepare clay slabs to be connected. Have the students score the slabs by scratching the surfaces of both edges using a plastic fork or knife.
  4. Spread slip over the scored edges.
  5. Press the pieces together and smooth out the seams for a firm bond. Sides can be supported while drying with wads of newspaper.
  6. Once the frame of the machine is built, additional elements can be added using the slip and score process.
  7. Allow the work to dry, then fire in a kiln.
  8. The fired piece can be painted with acrylic paint to add details.

Found Object Construction

  1. Select materials from found objects, such as cardboard, toilet paper or paper towel tubes, or water bottles.
  2. Cut, tear or bend the selected material to match the students’ plans.
  3. Using glue or a glue gun, assemble the objects.
  4. Add embellishments, using glue for details (eyes, feathers, pompoms, etc.)

REFLECT
Have students write artist’s statements about their work. What does the machine do? How does it work? How does it address the identified need?

December 2016 VSA Webinar: “Arts As Inclusion: Holding Ourselves Accountable in Reaching Students with Disabilities”

As schools work to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environments, oftentimes the first place a student learns alongside his peers is the arts classroom. Indeed it is the assumptions on which arts learning is based—every student has something to express, there is no “wrong answer,” everyone can participate—that make the arts classroom an inviting place for all students. How, though, do we move beyond the intuitive belief that the arts work for all learners and hold ourselves accountable to the promise of inclusion: to provide opportunities for students with disabilities to access instruction and meaningfully engage in learning with their peers?

This session challenges the notion that arts instruction is inherently differentiated, thereby pushing practitioners to demonstrate (in concrete, assessable ways) differentiated instruction for students with disabilities in the arts classroom. It provides arts educators with frameworks for designing accessible arts lessons, tools to evaluate student learning, and language to effectively discuss the performance of students with disabilities in inclusive settings with other members of a student’s IEP team—transforming art educators into powerful advocates for the inclusion of students with disabilities throughout the school day.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

november-webinar-blog-video

Presenter:

Jenna Gabriel is theIMG_1603_credit_Sarah_Hitchcock_Burzio Manager of Special Education at The Kennedy Center, where she supports all education initiatives affecting students with disabilities or their teachers, including the annual VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference.  Ms. Gabriel was previously based in Boston at IBA-Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, where she designed and supervised out-of-school-time programs for ELLs and struggling readers. Ms. Gabriel is the Founding Executive Director of Daytime Moon Creations, a NYC-based nonprofit providing arts programs to children with disabilities, and has led arts-based special education programming throughout NYC. Her most recent publication, “Use of Theatrical Techniques and Elements as Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders” was released in 2016 by Bloomsbury Press. Ms. Gabriel holds a BFA with honors in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and studied Intellectual Disabilities and Autism at Teachers College, Columbia University before completing her Masters in Education at Harvard University.


Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?

Children with ASD Learn through Shakespeare at OSU

Photo of teaching artists working with a boy.

OSU teaching artists work with students with ASD. Photo credit: Big Ten Network

Shakespearean language may sound unfamiliar or intimidating to some children, but at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio, educators are successfully using Shakespeare as the cornerstone of theater workshops for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). OSU’s Shakespeare and Autism program not only offers an exciting arts learning opportunity for young participants with ASD, but also provides hands-on training for university theater students as teaching artists for students with disabilities.

The Shakespeare and Autism program grew out of OSU’s partnership with the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). While RSC actor Kelly Hunter was at the university in 2009 to lead Shakespeare workshops for graduate students, she proposed incorporating her program for young people with ASD, called the Hunter Heartbeat Method, into the partnership. The success of an 11-week pilot program led to a collaboration between the OSU Department of Theater and the Nisonger Center, a university center for excellence in developmental disabilities. The Nisonger Center embarked upon a 42-week longitudinal study on the impact of the Hunter Heartbeat workshops on children with ASD.

The results of the Nisonger Center’s study were published in 2016 in the journal Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. They showed that participation in the Shakespeare and Autism program led to significant improvements in social involvement, language skills, and identification of facial expressions for children with ASD.

A female teaching artist puts her arms around two boys in a theater workshop.

Students play theater games led by OSU teaching artists. Photo credit: Big Ten Network

Kevin McClatchy, assistant professor of theater and director of the Shakespeare and Autism program, says the Hunter Heartbeat Method is rooted in the rhythm of Shakespeare’s language and exploring the mind’s eye. “Shakespeare was so great at putting words to feelings, and our workshops help kids express what being alive feels like to them. It gets exciting,” says McClatchy.

McClatchy teaches a Shakespeare and Autism class in the theater department every spring semester. During the 15-week service learning course, undergraduate and graduate students spend the first five weeks studying the Hunter Heartbeat Method and learning about ASD from scholarly reading, research, and guest speakers. After the first five weeks, they begin to lead Shakespeare and Autism workshops with two groups of 12 children with ASD from the Columbus area.

The workshops always begin with a heartbeat circle, in which everyone pats the rhythm of a heartbeat on their chests and says hello. McClatchy describes the circle as a great transitional tool and acknowledgment of a shared moment. After the heartbeat circle, the teaching artists lead the children in games based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, which provides a central storyline throughout the workshops.

Photo of a male teaching artist holding hands with a girl in a red shirt.

A teaching artist works with a girl at a Shakespeare and Autism workshop. Photo credit: Big Ten Network

The teaching artists might begin with a game like “Changing the Face,” when they would introduce the half-fish, half-monster character of Caliban. They make an angry face, attach an angry heartbeat, and go around the circle doing an angry hello. That moves into throwing the face across the circle to someone else who will catch it, and ultimately involves attaching Caliban’s text to the throw as well. Teaching artists model the games, and for certain activities, break the children into small groups for practice before returning to the large group.

McClatchy says the play-based games aim to develop skills like recognition and replication of facial expressions, taking turns, sustaining eye contact, and understanding cause and effect, all using Shakespeare’s text as a starting point. He also describes the practical learning opportunity for the university students as “incredible,” adding that real learning for any teaching artist happens when you actually do the work, adding, “You must be present in the moment and respond to every particular need. A strategy that works one week may backfire the next session. The OSU students are amazing in their ability to respond.”

For more information about the Shakespeare and Autism program, visit OSU’s website.

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition

The Kennedy Center’s Office of VSA and Accessibility is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program. This annual competition invites young writers with disabilities and collaborative groups that include students with disabilities to examine the disability experience and express their views through the art of writing for performance.

The winner in the Primary Division (grades 6-7) is The Lesson Taught by a Slice of Pizza by Lucas Correal from Baltimore Lab School in Baltimore, Maryland. The winner in the Junior Division (grades 8-9) is The Beauty of Roses by Courtney Brown from Derby High School in Derby, Kansas. The winners in these divisions will be featured on the VSA blog in the coming weeks.

Selected winners in the Senior Division (grades 10-12/ages 15-18) receive exclusive access to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., and the opportunity to participate in staged readings and workshops alongside the nation’s premier collegiate playwrights. The young playwrights also participate in the festival’s award ceremony.

The winning Senior Division plays include: A Change of Heart by Cicely Henderson; The Forgotten by Anna Hiestand; Silent Thank Yous by Dana Langston; What Now? by Lissette Lendeborg and Angeles Parada; The Pain of Scoliosis by Jacob Radford; and Dimples and Diabetes by Elle Shaheen.

Photo of Ciecely Henderson, a girl with light brown braided hair and a blue sleeveless top.Cicely Henderson (A Change of Heart) is a sophomore in the San Francisco School of the Arts Theatre Department. During her two years there, she has developed a love of both Shakespeare and playwriting. She especially enjoys playwriting because it allows her to express and discover new perspectives. Cicely is currently in recovery for an eating disorder. She is honored to be participating in the 2017 VSA Playwright Discovery Program.

A photo of Anna Hiestand, a girl with reddish brown hair and bangs, wearing a dark blue dress.Anna Hiestand (The Forgotten) is a high school senior from Blue Springs, Missouri. Anna, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety, has a deep passion for writing, fueled by her desire to bring comfort and healing to others. She cites her disability experience as providing the empathy, emotional insight, and sensitivity necessary to make her a better writer. Anna believes we can accomplish things not only in spite of our disabilities, but also because of them!

A photo of Dana Langston, a girl with chin length, dark brown hair, wearing dark round glasses and a gray shirt.Dana Langston (Silent Thank Yous), age 17, hails from Pensacola, Florida. She is a senior at West Florida High School of Advanced Technology. Dana has severe depression and anxiety, which inspires much of her work. She is a published author, as well as the founder of Defective Dynamic, an organization that helps those with mental illness. She will be attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after high school.

A photo of Lissette Lendeborg, a girl with black, braided hair wearing dark rim glasses and a black jacket.Lissette Lendeborg (What Now?) is a junior in the Creative Writing program at Miami Arts Charter School. Her work has been published in Orange Island Review, Poetry Matters, and di-verse-city Youth Anthology. Lissette has major depressive disorder, which she cites as the biggest obstacle she faces in producing work. She spends agonizing nights hovering over taunting blank pages, but rejoices when she takes part in the production of art.

Angeles ParadaPhoto of Angeles Parada, a girl with long, blonde hair and reddish rimmed glasses, wearing a pint shirt. (What Now?) is an eleventh grade student at Miami Arts Charter School. Angeles has migraine headaches; she aims to create art that helps others understand the disability experience.  She has been published by Poetry Matters and received two Silver Keys from the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

A photo of Jacob Radford, a young man with short brown hair wearing a collared shirt and blue tie.Jacob Radford (The Pain of Scoliosis) is a 19-year-old senior at Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He enjoys listening to music on his headphones and playing basketball with his friends. His bowling team recently finished 4th in the state. Jacob, who has multiple disabilities, says his favorite assignment in his academic career has been writing this play; it is one of his most accomplished pieces.

A photo of Elle Shaheen, a girl with long, dark brown hair, wearing a blue shirt.Elle Shaheen (Dimples and Diabetes) is a 12th grade student at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Elle, who has type 1 diabetes, uses her talents and passion for the performing arts to be an effective advocate for people with diabetes. The story of her life became the New York Times bestseller Elle and Coach. Elle has served as Co-Chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress, campaigned for the restoration of stem cell research, and founded a production company to produce and perform The Diary of Anne Frank along with new works while raising money for diabetes research.

Excerpts from the winning scripts will be performed on April 22 at 10 a.m. in the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab. To reserve a free ticket, email Megan Bailey at mebailey@kennedy-center.org before April 17.

Watercolor Fountain Painting: A Visual Art Lesson Plan for Students with Disabilities

Created by Darren Thompson

Creative Arts Specialist Darren Thompson teaches art in a fully inclusive setting, which includes many students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). His goal is to provide a rich environment that supports creative exploration for all students. Many of the art experiences he designs that are especially effective for children with ASD involve motorized devices that he creates or adapts from common objects. Here, Thompson offers a visual art lesson plan utilizing a battery-operated tabletop fountain.

Grade
Preschool, ages 3 – 6 years

Materials

  • Battery-operated tabletop fountain
  • Semi-moist watercolor set (such as Crayola or Prang)
  • Heavy white paper

Goals

  • Become acquainted with watercolor as a medium for self-expression.
  • Demonstrate that the marks a person makes can represent a thought or a feeling.
  • Provide an opportunity for social interaction.

Procedure

  • Fill fountains with water and turn them on.
  • Demonstrate the sequence of first dipping the brush in the water, then in the paint, and then touching it to the paper.
  • Tell the children they can paint whatever they choose.
  • Express interest in and remark upon what you see in a child’s piece and ask him or her to share thoughts or feelings. For example: “I see you’re using red and you’ve made some straight lines and some circles. Tell me about it!”
  • Ask if you can share their painting and words with their friends.
  • If the answer is no, respect the child’s choice. If the answer is yes, then make an impromptu announcement to the group. For example: “Hey everyone, Fatima has painted a picture of her mom and her ” Show the painting to the class. As you hand it back, speak loud enough for the class to hear you say, “Thank you, Fatima!”
  • Make your way around the room, interacting with each child in this manner.

Notes
A tabletop water fountain immediately engages children. They are eager to explore it and are delighted that they are allowed to do so. The sound and feel of water has a regulating effect for everyone, but is especially effective for individuals with sensory processing delays, including those sometimes associated with ASD. Children should be allowed to paint with their fingers if they choose.

I recommend using relatively small-sized paper, as it requires finer movements of the hands, which helps to calm and focus the children. I use 5” x 8” blank index cards.

Children always welcome positive acknowledgment from a caring adult. When they are asked to tell you about their work it sends the message that what they are doing, thinking, and feeling is important. It also gives them practice in reflecting on their actions and recognizing that actions have causes. When you share their work with the class, you are helping each child feel connected to their peer group. You are also demonstrating that every child has something to offer.

 

This lesson plan aligns with the following Early Learning Content Standards in the state of Ohio:

  • Use imagination and creativity to interact with objects and materials.
  • Express individuality, life experiences, and what he/she knows and is able to do through a variety of media,
  • Express interest in and show appreciation for the creative work of others.
  • Demonstrate understanding that symbols carry meaning and use symbols to represent thinking.
  • With modeling and support, explore the properties of objects and materials (e.g., solids and liquids).
  • Use language to communicate in a variety of ways with others, to share observations, ideas and experiences; problem-solve, reason, predict, and seek new information.

 

A headshot photo of Darren Thompson, man with light hair and a beard, wearing glasses.Darren Thompson is a Creative Arts Specialist employed by Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities in Columbus, Ohio. He teaches art at The Early Childhood Education and Family Center in a fully inclusive setting. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art, a Master’s Degree in Education, and is a licensed Early Childhood Educator and Intervention Specialist. He is a frequent guest speaker at The Ohio State University College of Social Work and College of Arts and Sciences. Thompson presented at the 2016 VSA Ohio Arts and Autism Conference and is on the planning committee for the 2017 convening.

KC Special Ed: NAEA National Convention 2017

Photograph of Jenna Gabriel in the Grand Foyer of the Kennedy Center

I walk into the Hilton 2nd floor lobby to pick up my NAEA registration materials and one thing is abundantly clear: I am not in Kansas anymore. The largest education conference I’ve ever been to topped out at 400 people and when Patricia Franklin, the President of the National Arts Education Association (NAEA) welcomes 7,000 art educators to the NAEA National Convention, my jaw drops. There are more than 350 sessions each day to prompt noisy, messy, and vital discussions of how we ensure that every child receives a well-rounded education enriched by meaningful participation in the arts. I feel like Dorothy in the wonderland of Oz.

I had the privilege of spending 4 days in this glorious cacophony last week, when I travelled to NYC to present “Arts as Inclusion: Holding Ourselves Accountable in Reaching Students with Disabilities” at the NAEA National Convention. In addition to my own presentation, I got to observe sessions, participate in conversations, and connect with arts teachers from around the country. I learned a lot, but want to share 3 things that have stuck with me as I return to the real world here in DC:

1.)  Our work at the intersection of arts and special education is vital—perhaps more so now than ever before.

Spare me a quick moment for a #humblebrag: My session was packed. In a room with chairs for 50 people, between 80 and 100 tried to cram in. People sat on the floor in the aisle and by my projector, stood in the back and spilled out into the hallway. As uncomfortable as they must have been, these teachers were actively engaged the entire time, asking questions about IEPs and instructional practice, offering insights from their own classroom experiences, and staying after to continue the conversation.

I want to be so flattered by this—surely it’s because people *really* wanted to see me present, right?—but the truth is that every single session about students with disabilities was like this. Every single session I went to that covered strategies to support inclusion or adaptations for students with disabilities had a full classroom, ran out of handouts, and had attendees pushing through to make more space. Because art educators need this material.

Let me say that again: Art. Educators. Need. This. Material.

We know that, despite the fact that almost every arts teacher teaches students with disabilities, only 21.8% of arts educators had university coursework that prepared them for this work, and that (according to one survey) only 26% feel comfortable preparing engaging arts learning experiences for students with disabilities, compared to 93% when asked about instruction of non-disabled peers. What I saw at NAEA supported this: I met art educator after art educator seeking out resources to better support their students with disabilities. What was so incredible about this, though, was their perspective. I didn’t meet a single teacher who needed to be convinced that students with disabilities should be in the art room. Instead, every single teacher I met was asking questions that spoke to the incredibly high standards they set for their instructional practice: How can I set up an environment that encourages my students with disabilities to develop agency in their creative process? How can I advocate for my students with disabilities to ensure that the supports they are legally entitled to in academic settings follow them into the arts classroom? How can I develop new and better methods to support diverse communication methods that allow students with disabilities to express themselves fully? What adaptations can I create that allow students with disabilities to participate in the same arts activities as their peers, instead of modifying the activity or diluting content?

And the presentations met them there. Laura Hubbard and Kelley DeCleene shared simple but powerful adaptations that art teachers can make to increase access in the classroom. Maude Wiltshire offered visual supports that can integrate with students’ AACs to support communication and agency. Juliann Dorff and Linda Hoeptner-Poling presented the VSA Teacher Resource Guide and introduced the inclusive lessons published late last year. Samantha Varian spoke on choice-based instruction in the inclusive classroom. And the amazing folks of the Special Needs in Art Education interest group grappled with the responsibility to share our knowledge widely with art educators across the country to improve learning outcomes for students with disabilities.

In a changing educational landscape with rapidly diversifying classrooms, I saw a hunger for more tools to reach our highest-need young folks, and an incredible opportunity for those of us who work at this vibrant and fertile intersection. 

2.)  Continuing professional development and inservice trainings are important, but we must prioritize preservice instruction.

Photograph of Jenna presenting at a conferenceInservice trainings like those offered to the working arts educators at the NAEA National Convention are critical to reaching students with disabilities learning in today’s classrooms. But as a field, we must recognize that this need is the symptom of a larger issue at play in art teacher development: arts educators are not receiving adequate training to reach students with disabilities before they enter the classroom. Innovative and incredible programs like the MA in Arts Education with an Emphasis on Special Populations at Moore College of Art and Design and the Masters of Music in Music Education with a Concentration on Autism offered by the Boston Conservatory at Berklee are efforts to address this problem, but these programs should be the standard. The norm, not the unique.

In addressing the critical questions facing art educators in higher education today, Rhoda Bernard highlighted this truth, and the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs she manages will undoubtedly be a leader in this work. Steve Seidel, Program Director of the Arts in Education Masters Program at Harvard, described the current educational landscape as particular and frightening moment in the history of public education in this country and argued that today’s young arts educators will have increased responsibilities to advocate for their students’ needs. For students with disabilities, this advocacy begins with arts teachers having a foundational understanding of strategies and practices that support meaningful engagement in and through the arts.

This starts in preservice.

Photograph of conference name badge, agenda book, other swag and materials.3.)  The arts matter.
Arts education matters.
Students with disabilities matter.

This work matters.

Perhaps one of the most impactful moments of NAEA National Convention came in the first general session, when President Patricia Franklin asked us all to rise and say together: The arts matter. Arts education matters. Hearing 7,000 voices in chorus affirm this simple truth was beautiful. We spend so much of our time fighting to convince others that our work in the arts is important, so the 4 days I spent alongside educators who share this belief was a powerful moment to draw inspiration and energy from.

I add to this mantra that students with disabilities, and their access to high-quality arts learning experiences, also matter. It is critical that the voices and life experiences of our students with disabilities not be left out of conversations about well-rounded and holistic education. The right to participate, and to participate fully, must be guaranteed for all of our students. It falls on us as educators to ensure this right is protected and advocated for in the art room and beyond.

It was a joy to travel on behalf of the Office of VSA and Accessibility and to share our resources and knowledge with a national audience. I’ve got a busy spring on the conference circuit, so I encourage you to follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We’ll be using the hashtag #kcspecialed to share photos and anecdotes from American Alliance for Theatre & Education’s DC Theatre in Our Schools Regional Event, Council for Exceptional Children Convention & Expo, the Woodruff Arts Center Educator Conference, and the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention. Of course, it all culminates with VSA Intersections in Austin, and I look forward to seeing you there!