We’ve always been drawn to art at Keshet. Art is always a highlight for participants and we continue to see a need for it to expand even greater. Over the past few months, Keshet’s leadership team has brushed up on its efforts to make art even more vital and a routine part of programming. For example, we now have Sam, an art teacher at GADOL, Michelle, an art therapist for Keshet’s 3 schools and built a new partnership with Open Studio Project for adult art classes. These efforts were possible, in part, through The Beverly Goldstick Creative Arts Program at Keshet and funding from the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund.
While our art instructors come from different backgrounds, each of them have the same goal: to provide a safe and welcoming environment for artists of all abilities to grow their skills and express themselves. By investing in art, we’ve given participants their own canvas to create what they want to and succeed while doing it.
Let’s hear about the impact of Keshet’s art programs through the lens of our participants and art instructors…
Choice and Independence
“I’m proud that I’ve learned how to draw a wine bottle on my own.” – Dovi, GADOL Team Member
When you walk into one of Keshet’s art classes, you don’t see an instructor at the head of the room walking through a project step-by-step. In fact, it is quite the opposite. All projects are based on each participant’s individual interests and needs. At a space like GADOL which is constantly driven by choice, Sam is the kind of teacher who works alongside team members. He asks questions, offers ideas and demonstrates techniques, without ever doing a project for them. He’ll search his own art workbook to find the perfect flower technique for a team member to replicate, yet he’s just as excited to help them sketch a creature from their favorite video game. While the adults value his opinion and often ask for his feedback, his number one goal is to inspire them to create their artwork however they want it to look. This empowers team members a sense of independence and the opportunity to create their own piece to be proud of.
“We use art to express ourselves, not just to make art.” -Rob, Executive Director at Open Studio Project
For people with disabilities, art has many benefits, but perhaps none more powerful than the ability to express thoughts, feelings and emotions in ways they may not normally be able to. At Keshet art classes, nothing is off limits. Teachers adapt the projects to fit the needs of every person. For example, at Keshet Day School where students are younger and continuing to develop their communication and motor skills, projects are sensory-focused. However, for the adults at GADOL, team members love to draw and oftentimes will spend weeks on the same drawing until they perfect it to their liking. While different projects by design, they all allow for the authenticity, communication and self-expression that is made possible by art.
A Well-Rounded Experience
“I want to do the class again! We do sculptures, sometimes we do painting, collage and drawing. We even went on a field trip to the Evanston Art Center where we found art that we liked. It’s awesome and I love it!” -Lindsey, Adult Artist
Art is so much more than the final product, and nothing embodies this better than the adult art class at Open Studio Project. In the first half of the class, adults learned the fundamentals of all different types of art techniques and mediums. Now in the latter half, the participants have all the materials at their disposal and can choose what they want to create. Going out in the community and keeping a weekly journal portfolio are just some of the other ways that this class goes beyond the average. It’s incredible to witness our partner organizations share very similar values to Keshet as a whole, and work with us to make the experience so positive and worthwhile for everyone.
Learning From Others
“Sam, the art teacher at GADOL, is a genius! We also met a new teacher named Rob. We’re learning from new people and doing different projects that we haven’t done before.” -Estella, Adult Artist & GADOL Team Member
Michelle, Sam and Rob may be new faces to Keshet, but what they bring to the table inspires our participants in the best of ways. We firmly believe that learning is lifelong, and often happens most outside a traditional learning environment. Each of the instructors are incredibly warm, encouraging and have the ability to meet every participant where they are at. In turn, artists are equally as invested in the projects they create and more likely to continue to challenge themselves to learn even more. We are grateful that our participants are just as excited about what they are doing as we are!
A Collaborative Environment for All
“What I love most about working at Keshet is how supportive the staff are. They really know each of the kids, what they can do and what they like. It’s amazing to see how they can best utilize the equipment and resources they have to make this experience successful for every student.” -Michelle, Art Therapist
Learning not only happens for the artists themselves, but for the instructors as well. When Michelle first began art therapy at Keshet’s 3 schools, she had to learn to think quickly on her feet and adapt programming for each student. In doing so, she was quickly met with support from colleagues, particularly with the one-on-one paraprofessionals and related services team who knew just how to best support each student. While Michelle is preparing the next steps of a project, the Keshet staff member is right at her side prompting the student with the opportunity to choose colors, shapes and anything else that can make this piece of artwork their own. The staff recognize the importance of autonomy when it comes to the creative process, and work together to ensure that all students can participate in art to the fullest. For Michelle, seeing other people celebrate these successes just as much as her makes this experience all the more rewarding.
In this short amount of time, Keshet’s art programs have been enhanced to the next level. For Keshet participants, what they create in art tends to go beyond what’s on the page; you can see the smiles and pride beaming on their faces. We’re grateful for these incredible and experienced instructors who have passed along their creative palettes and empowered our participants to gain new skills and fall in love with art. We are excited to see these programs continue to grow and see what Keshet artists will create next.