Art for more than art's sake
by Laura Nation-Atchison
One of the dozens of pieces of art among the offerings for the VSA Alabama and The Arc of South Talladega County’s Seventh Annual ArtPartners Live Auction and Showcase Sept. 22. The event, “Fiesta de Colores,” includes entertainment, food and fun and tickets are $20, available at the door, Comer Museum and The Arc of South Talladega County. The event supports art programs fo Arc clients.
If you’re looking for a good cause, a good time with friends and a whole lot of fun, the place to be is Comer Museum and Arts Center in Sylacauga Thursday, Sept. 22.

That’s when the museum hosts the yearly VSA of Alabama and The Arc of South Talladega’s premiere fundraiser with its Live Auction and Showcase.

The theme is “Fiesta de Colores,” and the evening includes not only the opportunity to acquire great art done by Arc clients who partner with professional artists to create the pieces, but food and entertainment that’s completely on the festive side.

Attire is casual, but “sombreros are encouraged,” and it all gets started at 5 p.m.

The connection between The Arc of South Talladega County, its clients and VSA Arts of Alabama started seven years ago, and the partnership have been one that has benefited Arc clients in tremendous ways, said Arc of South Talladega County Director Beverly White.

There’s the hands on art, which the clients love in and of itself, she says, but there’s so much more taking place that may not be obvious.

“With our guys, it goes far beyond just learning and evolving as artists,” she said. “They are blossoming as individuals.”

Arc clients have a variety of situations, some are developmentally delayed, some have physical conditions and some have both. They are all adults who receive assistance in everything from socialization and fun activities to learning life and job skills.

“Their confidence and self-worth levels have skyrocketed,” White said. “And they are expressing their feelings through their art. For many of our clients, verbal expression can be something that they lack.”

The art lessons and programs have given clients the ability to be in control of doing something that they like to do, she said.

Often in the situation of depending upon someone else to take them to an activity or guide them in one, the art lessons provide the training they need to work on art projects at home, on their own times, when they want to do it.

White has been director for The Arc of South Talladega County for years, and said the connection with VSA Arts of Alabama has been outstanding.

“During my time here as director, this partnership with VSA Arts has been the most rewarding,” she said. “Through the years, many people have not expected much from individuals with disabilities. They were frequently told what they could not do and were not given the opportunity to try. At The Arc, we try to give everyone the chance to succeed. Their art program has given them this opportunity.”

VSA Arts of Alabama is a state-wide non-profit organization that is dedicated to serving children and adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses through the arts.

There are visual arts, drama, creative writing, drumming and rhythm, creative movement, music therapy and art therapy programs offered. VSA Alabama serves more than 3,000 people in its programs in community, educational and healthcare settings throughout the state.

VSA Alabama was founded in 1984 as an affiliate of VSA, an international non-profit that serves millions of people each year in 51 countries. The organization was founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith as an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

White credits the Comer Museum board and museum director Donna Rentfrow with providing a “home” for the weekly art lessons and other activities.

“They realize the importance the arts can play for individuals with disabilities.”

And as for the clients, White can’t say enough about the benefits of the art program.

“Just watching them evolve as artists and as this happens, you can see their pride in themselves,” she said. “I love watching their creative juices flow. This is the perfect example of what art can do, showcase their abilities, and not their disabilities. The bottom line is, we’re talking about self-esteem and where would any of us be without a positive self image?”

Contact Laura Nation-Atchison at lnation@dailyhome.com.

© 2011