[Art_beyond_sight_educators] Promoting Access to the Arts for All, Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month, CALLING ALL
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fnugg at online.no
Wed Oct 2 09:16:58 UTC 2013
Promoting Access to the Arts for All
Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month
This is our final call for entries to
be included in the Art Beyond
Sight Calendar! Send us your organization’s
name, event date,
time, location, and contact if
pre-registration is required. The
calendar is available on our
Building an Inclusive Society
Last October marked the 10th year anniversary of Art Beyond Sight
Awareness Month. We celebrated a decade’s worth of efforts made by
museums, schools, cultural institutions, libraries, and service organiza-
tions in increasing art education for the disabled. This year, we are
thrilled to be celebrating art education and creativity for people with
loss and other disabilities once again.
Greetings to all newcomers and long-time participants!
BROCHURES? Simply send an email to Marie Clapot, Program Director, at
marie.clapot at artbeyondsight.org, indicating the number of brochures
well as your mailing address.
PRESS COVERAGE? Contact Art Beyond Sight for direct quotes from its
staff to include
in your press release – or simply give Art Beyond Sight’s phone number
press reporters – (212) 334 -8723. You can also print our factsheets and
them in your press kits. The factsheets can be found at: http://
Email Alert 1
Michelle Lopez is the senior program coordinator of Queens Museum
of Art. Having served children and families on the autism spectrum
as an ABA Instructor, counselor and trainer, she is now working with
Queens Museum of Art’s ArtAccess
library programs and coordinates the Autism Initiatives program, which
is a multi-year partnership
with the Queens Library. Through this program, families can access
bilingual studio art classes held at the
various Queens Library branches.
Programs have included classes such as Photography Class, Beautiful
Oops, and The Magic Tree House series.
The Magic Tree House , a 6-week series, provided students of all reading
levels with the chance to
make art inspired by the themes in books 1-4 of the book series.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE LOPEZ
ART BEYOND SIGHT: Why did you become involved with ArtAccess/Autism
MICHELLE LOPEZ: Art access is the part of our education department that
focuses on special needs, so I was interested
in working with it because of my art therapy background. In terms of
Autism Initiatives, back when I
was in school I gained experience from working at a preschool with
children on the autism spectrum. I didn’t
know exactly what I wanted to do at the time but that’s when I became
interested in autism. When I started
working at the Queens Museum of Art, we had a grant for the new New
Yorkers program, which is a program for
adults and the immigrant community. So at the time, most of the programs
were for adults but the coordinator
wanted to make programs for families as well, including programs for
early childhood. It just so happened that
one of the families of the program had a child on the autism spectrum –
this family invited other friends and
family of the autism community and the number of classmates increased
The coordinator of this new program wasn’t familiar with working with
those on the autism spectrum. That’s
when I came to help out – it ended up becoming a popular and successful
class. And at the same time, the
Queens Library was looking to gain training for working with families
and children with special needs – that’s
when I decided to focus more on autism and became involved with Autism
ABS: What is the goal of Autism Initiatives?
ML: The goal overall is to create more inviting institutions for
families on the autism spectrum. Thankfully, looking
at how things are now, it looks like a lot of the museums have gone on
that journey, starting their own au-
tism initiatives. I think now, were really thinking about the
relationship of community spaces for individuals on
the autism spectrum so that they can develop relationships with these
institutions. Another goal is to offer prac-
tical tools to help families understand how to use a museum. These
families can then pass these tools onto others.
Last but not least, another goal would be teaching these families to use
this cultural network to their advantage.
The focus of Autism Initiatives has shifted from children to families in
recent years. Due to this, our
main focus is socialization because sometimes educators can feel
intimidated and vice versa. So a primary goal is
ABS: What are some programs that have been created through Autism
ML: We first started with photography classes, then DJ classes, to
traditional art making classes and art-making
classes inspired by books. We’ve also done composing, lighting classes –
whatever is of interest of the educators.
Programs are often educator driven so it usually comes down to the
educator. If the educator is passionate
about a specific topic, the participants are more willing to learn about
it because it is presented to them in an
exciting way. Because every child is interested in having a positive
experience, we will really initiate any program
that an educator is willing to teach as long as they are open to opening
up their curriculum in this manner.
ABS: What kind of skills do you focus on enriching in the classroom?
Through programs such like the Magic
Tree House series?
ML: A series like the Magic Tree House series happens over 6 weeks, so
we start with socialization skills. Children
learn to greet each other and to reinforce the action of acknowledging
their peers. For the Magic Tree
House series in particular, we were also trying to wean children off of
picture books. Since many children are
visual learners, they tend to need that .
The great thing about the Magic Tree House series is that there is a set
beginning, middle, and end to the story
line, and they always focus on science or social study based needs –
subjects part of a school’s core curriculum.
One thing I’d like to emphasize is that it’s not that children can’t
learn, it’s that you want to get them to learn.
The idea is to introduce them to themes that will come up in the book
and get them interested in those themes.
If the theme is mummies, we will introduce them to the idea of Egypt so
when they read the books in class or
with their parents, they begin to see certain words come to life because
of the previous reenactments in class.
This applies to children whether they can read or not.
We want children to be eventually able to do this on their own. We show
parents that the vocabulary of a visual
thinker can be built by adding images to words – and images can be added
to words by playing around with material
found at home. The ultimate goal is to help them be independent in their
reading and get them interested
ABS: Who do you think adults benefit from participating in programs like
the Open Studio program? (The
Open Studio is a program for adults only)
ML: First and foremost, the adults come on Sunday and they register for
every class individually. We don’t want
a large group to book during that time because we want adults to live
independently. For instance, there might
not be enough space for an adult to register due to group booking. We
want adults to feel like attending this
class is entirely up to them – they book the class and they attend. We
also charge a dollar in order to help them
understand money management.
Usually, 2-4 participants come to each class. The adults choose what
they want to do because, they’re adults. If
they want to make cards, have a conversation, whatever it is they want
to do, it is up to them. We have participants
that come every week and work on one art piece for a long period of time
with their own materials. The
idea here is not to teach them to make artwork but allow them to ask for
what materials they want in making it.
If they want to make the sky look more profound, Mitra, the art
therapist, can make suggestions. The direction
these adults want to take is ultimately up to them. We want to provide
them with a studio space where they
can make decisions.
Adults can also benefit from Open Studio because it provides a social
community. The adults look forward to
seeing each other, sharing new sketches, and interacting with one another.
ABS: Can you describe the process of collaborating with teaching artists
and/or art therapists in developing
new programs/How do you go about developing a program together to
successfully help those with autism?
ML: We collaborate and develop a program by teaching art therapists how
to incorporate more entry points
into their lessons. For instance, just talking to the kids won’t suffice
because children of the autism spectrum
are usually visual learners. At the same time, some of them are not
entirely visual – some need to take action
and do. So throughout the process of developing a program, we make it
clear that the communication to the
kids needs to be clear, which includes giving participants space and/or
more time. We enjoy adapting to the
different personalities and teaching styles of art therapists and
teaching artists, but we also make sure to let
them know to pace each lesson.
ART BEYOND SIGHT
New York, NY 10012
Four years ago, I started working with a photographer named Sol
Aramendi. I still work with her and she currently
runs education programs for adult learners who deal with identity issues
due to immigration. At the time,
she was interested in working with those with autism so she taught a
student participant the technical aspects
of using a camera. For the first camera class session, we had
participants take a look at the camera and play
around with it. Some participants are really skilled with the digital
camera and might be less open to sugges-
tions so teaching one lesson in several different ways within one class
session is important. Some participants
may get stuck on one detail and others might only be observing the
camera as a whole.
Adding contrast within one class session is important. For instance, Sol
may have participants take 5 pictures
from up close and 5 from far away. This is an ideal method as opposed to
teaching a specific way for one week
and introducing another method the next week because doing so would make
some participants feel like
they’re being corrected, when the teacher is really just trying to
introduce a range of skills.
ABS: What’s the most rewarding part about working children of the autism
ML: I’m seeing that institutions are taking on autism initiatives of
their own and I’m pleased to see how far this
community has grown, as well as how many more opportunities there are
now. When I used to work in a home
with a family who had an autistic child, I remember seeing how difficult
it was for the parent and how they had
no courage to go out into society. Seeing how kids enjoy learning about
all kinds of subjects, as opposed to
when I first started in the field, it seemed that child was “supposed to
have” a single interest. Now, there are a
range of topics that can be introduced to a child. Again, in terms of
using a camera, a child can learn not just
how to use it but how to make beautiful images.
All in all, being able to see how far educators have come, how much the
community has grown, and how educators
are taking more chances is very rewarding. Lastly, seeing changes in
special education reform, seeing major
changes in schools, and seeing institutions realize that these children
can’t be taught social skills in an isolated
ABS: What is the most challenging part of working with the autism community?
ML: The most challenging aspect of working with children from this
community is that there’s still a long way to
go. Providing sensory experiences is important for every learner but it
really shouldn’t stop there. We need to
set the expectations higher and trust in the process.
It’s also a bit frustrating that some educators and teachers are meeting
these children for the first time in a
standard classroom seeing and thinking “How do I teach a group of 30
kids 5 of them having special needs?
How do I engage these 5 children?” or, “What’s the point of having these
5 kids in the larger group seeing?”
These kinds of responses can be frustrating.
Last but not least, art business is not about special needs or
marginalized groups, so funding for museum space
is challenging. Finding a funder or funding source committed for the
long term is tricky. We would love to pay
for a great educator but often can’t due to the lack of funding.
ABS: In what ways do you think museums can further accommodate those
affected by autism?
ML: I think we have to stop thinking about the autism community as a
particular population. We should really
be thinking about the whole. Truth is, museums are not accessible to all
people and programming is important,
but you don’t need to know whether a visitor has a specific disorder.
Rather, there should be more ways to enrich
a visitor’s experience – for example, providing images or some tactile
objects for children who are nonverbal
by making sure that they can participate and walk around the same way as
There are many great programs for those with autism within a museum, but
if a staff member or another museumgoer
shushes an autistic child, the child’s experience is ruined. You would
someone to your house, put out food on the table, and suddenly yell at them,
“Don’t eat the food!” The museum is everyone’s house and it’s up to each
be courteous. If someone with autism walks through a museum door, the museum
must accept them as the way they are. It’s not anyone’s job to change them.
ART BEYOND SIGHT
New York, NY 10012
We are standing on the plains to the east of the Colorado Rockies
looking west. On our left is Colorado's boarder
with New Mexico and on the right is our boarder with Wyoming. The
distance from New Mexico to Wyoming
is 280 miles. This sculpture is 140 inches wide so 1/2 inch represents 1
Vertically the scale is 1 1/2 inches equals 1000 feet. The bottom of the
picture is sea level. Denver is placed at
one mile high and the snow capped mountains top out right around 14,000
feet in elevation. The city icons are
somewhat indicative of population, Denver is the largest, Trinidad is
the smallest and the others range inbetween
those two extremes.
Around the edge of the image are six state symbols including the state
flower, flag, bird, insect, fish, and mammal.
These bas relief are carved in slate.
The large image is carved from:
sky - blue limestone lightly textured
mountain caps - sparkling white marble glassy smooth
mountains - red travertine heavily textured
plains - smooth green onyx, the rivers are rounded indents running as
they would across the plains and I-70 is a
Ann Cunningham specializes in creating tactile pictures. These have been
featured in her exhibits, her children's
books and as tactile interpretations of museum's collections. For more
information, visit her website: http://
ART BEYOND SIGHT
New York, NY 10012
Images from Colorado by
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