PBS: Shedding a limiting label to embrace a new identity as artist

If you attend an art show at Arc of the Arts, a studio in Austin, Texas, you’ll find paintings and drawings, jewelry and flash animation. The studio houses over 60 artists a week, all of whom are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I think there is this misunderstanding that people with disabilities can’t create art that is just as good as any of the art out there and so I think highlighting that at a lot of the shows is eye-opening,” said Andrew Grimes, lead art instructor at Arc of the Arts.

Each artist that passes weekly through their doors receives comprehensive, individualized instruction.

“We really don’t focus in on the disability too much, it’s more about their interests in the art,” said Ann Alva Wieding, the program manager at the studio. “The lessons are really what you’d find in a college level art course. We’ve just slowed down the pace a little bit and we do some repetition with it.”

The artists sell their pieces, oftentimes learning the marketing skills to help promote the work that they create. Wieding says that having a final product really boosts self-esteem.

“For a lot of people with disabilities, they’ve had a label most of their life. Now, suddenly, they become an artist and they’re not carrying around that label anymore.”

People with developmental disabilities can struggle to find educational opportunities or a professional outlet, but Arc of the Arts believes the “bridge” they’ve created to the community can help fill that void.

“It’s a great way of self-expression, especially for some people who have communication disabilities,” said Wieding. “They may not have a very strong voice with which to share their story, but they have now a medium that they can display what they are really interested in to the world.”

The Arc of Southern Maryland presents the 2014 Sprout Film Festival

The annual film festival, co-sponsored by the College of Southern Maryland, will be held Oct. 10, 2014 at 6 p.m. on the Prince Frederick Campus, Building 2, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick.

The family-friendly films include artistic short films, documentaries and features designed to inspire,and raise awareness about people with developmental disabilities using the medium of film. The evening includes a reception, with light refreshments provided. $20 at ticket.

Sponsorship opportunities available. For information on sponsorship or about the film festival contact 410-535-2413, Ext. 113 or development@arcsomd.org. click here for details

L’Arche GWDC Hosts Traveling Ark

from their site: ”

Walton Schofield shows off one of the five arks traveling the world in celebration of L’Arche’s 50th anniversary. Photo ©Brian A Taylor

Shortly after Jean Vanier, Philippe Seux, and Rappahël Simi moved in to a small home in Trosly-Breuil, France, Jean asked his friend Jacqueline d’Halluin help him name the house.

“She suggested about a hundred names,” Jean writes in his book An Ark for the Poor. “When she said ‘L’Arche,’ I knew without any hesitation that that was it.”

Only later did Jean realize the symbolism of the word, which means the ark in French. The story of Noah’s ark – a boat of salvation for God’s people – appears in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu scripture as well as they mythology of other early cultures, and aptly symbolizes a place where people can find safety from life’s raging storms.

Today, there are L’Arche 146 communities in 39 countries where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives together. Born in 1964 out of the Roman Catholic tradition, communities today focus their spirituality around Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and inter-faith traditions. While each has its own unique characteristics, they share common core values of dignity, relationship, spirituality, sharing life in community, and solidarity with one another.

This year the International Federation is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of that first small home by passing five wooden arks from community to community. Each ark can be opened to reveal three levels in which pictures, signatures, and inscriptions are being collected.

L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. hosted one of the traveling arks July 1-11. During its stay, the community re-enacted the story of Noah’s ark with founding core member Michael Schaff playing the leading role.

When asked how the L’Arche community is like Noah’s ark, members responded, “It’s a safe place,” “God is with us,” and “We’re a family.”

Once the arks have traveled to the all the communities they will land in France for a final celebration. Each country will also send a pair of representatives, symbolic of the animals going two-by-two into the safety of the ark.”

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ArtStream OnStage, “The Super and The Mundane and Hotel Times”

ArtStream OnStage, is proud to present the 2014 Silver Spring Inclusive Theatre Companies in The Super and The Mundane and Hotel Times, June 19-22, 2014 at Round House Silver Spring in Silver Spring, MD.

Check-in, unwind, and ENJOY!

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Inclusive Theatre Companies are directed by trained theatre professionals and feature actors who have intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities, or are on the Autism Spectrum. An original script is developed during the rehearsal process through improvisation techniques. A play is scripted and then blocked, memorized by the actors, and performed for the public. The final production is designed to showcase each actor’s unique talents.

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NPR: iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School Band

There’s a steady stream of hype surrounding the pluses and pitfalls of classroom tablet computers. But for a growing number of special education students tablets and their apps are proving transformative. The tablets aren’t merely novel and fun. With guidance from creative teachers, they are helping to deepen engagement, communication, and creativity.

In a typical red brick public school building in the Fresh Meadows section of Queens, New York, one creative and passionate music instructor is using tablet computers to help reach students with disabilities. In the process, he’s opening doors for some kids with severe mental and physical challenges.

On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders.

“I’m Tobi Lakes, I’m 15 years old. I’m in ninth grade. I’m four grades away from college.”

Morning sunlight pushes through large, old windows into the school’s well-worn and empty-seated auditorium. On the stage, iPads on small stands sit in a semicircle. It’s rehearsal time. The students mingle and chat before practice starts. Tobi Lakes, a tall, wire-thin teen with thick glasses sits at an electric piano. He taught himself to play. Continue reading NPR: iPads Allow Kids With Challenges To Play In High School Band

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Playing soon at the Shakespeare Theatre company (In the Sidney Harman Hall) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. 

Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs. Shears’ dead dog, Wellington. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in his book to solve the mystery. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at math but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

“Riveting, emotional, intensely theatrical re-imagining of Mark Haddon’s multi-prizewinning bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time is nothing short of a triumph.”

“Luke Treadaway gives a bravura performance.” 
The Stage

“A profoundly moving play.” 
The Independent

“If ever there was a perfect theatrical marriage of performance and effect, this is it.”

This beautifully imagined stage production of Mark Haddon’s internationally renowned, multi-award-winning novel returns to NT Live.

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PBS: Portrait of a dyslexic artist, who transforms neurons into ‘butterflies’

After completing a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, artist Rebecca Kamen has transformed her discussions with neuroscientists into abstract sculptures, such as this close-up view of “Butterflies of the Soul.” (Image courtesy of Rebecca Kamen.)

Rebecca Kamen’s sculptures appear as delicate as the brain itself. Thin, green branches stretch from a colorful mass One of Kamen's influences is the writing of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who is called the "father of modern neuroscience." Cajal once said: “Like the entomologist in search of colorful butterflies, my attention has chased in the gardens of the grey matter cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind."  of vein-like filaments. The branches, made from pieces of translucent mylar and stained with diluted acrylic paint, are so delicate that they sway slightly when mounted to the wall. Perched on various parts of the sculpture are mylar butterflies, whose wings also move, as if fluttering.

One of Kamen’s artistic influences is the writing of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who is called the “father of modern neuroscience.”

The work, called “Butterflies of the Soul” was inspired by neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who won the 1906 Nobel Prize, for his groundbreaking work on the human nervous system. Kamen’s sculpture is a nod to his work and the development of modern neuroscience. Cajal’s observation of the cells under the microscope radically changed how scientists study the brain and its functions, Kamen said. And the butterflies in her sculpture represent Cajal’s drawings of Purkinje cells, which are found in the cerebellar cortex at the base of the brain.

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2014 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition Call for Scripts!


Middle and high school students are invited to explore the disability experience—in their own life, the lives of others, or through fictional characters—by writing a script. Writers with and without disabilities are encouraged to submit a one-act script for stage or screen. Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration by up to five students.

The competition has three divisions. One winning script is selected in each of the Primary and Junior Divisions (grades 6-7 and 8-9 respectively). Winners in these divisions will receive $500 for arts programs at their schools, along with an award recognizing the student for excellence in script writing.

In the Senior Division (grades 10-12), a select number of applicants will be brought to Washington, D.C. for the VSA Playwright Discovery Weekend Intensive, which will include pre-professional activities such as playwriting workshops, roundtable discussions, and staged readings. A select number of Senior Division winners’ scripts will be chosen for a Millennium Stage performance as part of the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage festival.

Application Deadline: April 28, 2014

To learn more about the competition and apply, visit the website.

Photo project for people with autism offers insights into their worldviews

from the Washington Post: ‘We really see things through their eyes’
By Rohan A. Nadkarni, Published: April 9

–> See some of the images

Joe Myers wandered around the Tidal Basin on Wednesday, his Nikon point-and-shoot camera at the ready.

Tourists snapped family photos with a smattering of pink blossoms as a backdrop. Runners stopped for selfies with the Washington Monument towering behind them. Families tiptoed to the edge of the Tidal Basin for group shots in front of the water.

Myers searched for his own kind of beauty among the District’s iconic cherry blossoms. He took pictures of others taking pictures. He snapped shots of people in the crowd who caught his attention. He focused on what intrigued him — the shade of a particular blossom, a drooping branch.

Myers, 28, lives with autism, and he went to photograph the Tidal Basin on Wednesday with classmates from the InFocus Project, a program of Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children.

“Individuals with autism can better express themselves in photographs,” said Craig Pardini, a photographer who instructs the InFocus group. “Outings like this give them a chance to take pictures of how they see things.” Continue reading Photo project for people with autism offers insights into their worldviews