Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Beauty of the Art of Engagement

Today began with snow on the ground again… and many moments of wonder.

One of the wonderful things I get to do is to work with ACT - Artist Creating Together.  Today was the first day of a two day art festival bringing together main stream students and students with disabilities.

This was the magical moment for me.  A young elementary student in a wheel chair was not engaged with the art project and the student with her did not know how to foster that engagement… I knelt down next to her wheelchair and held up three markers.  She had not wanted to hold any of them.  She waved her hands and as I watched her eyes I started to eliminate markers.  The red one caught her interest.  She did grasp it and drop it and grasp it and drop it.  I had a metal cookie sheet for her to work on.  She began to drum her fingers on it, another moment of purposeful interaction.  I offered her the pink marker and she made three very pale marks on her project.  As I talked to her she turned her head and looked at me.  Her eyes became clear and bright.  She reached out her hand and touched my hair.  None of these movements were easy for her.  Success!

How do I know we had success?  She knew that I saw her, that I looked into her eyes and saw her as a person, a person as unique, as the same, and as different as each and every one of us.  The student that was working with her got to observe an interaction that will hopefully give her the ability to assist instead of to do for her, to offer choices, and to be awed by what can happen when we slow down, take a breath, and allow life to open doors that we assume are shut forever.  

The arts create the ability to make choices.  The ability to make choices, no matter how large or how small, empowers us.  In many school situations these students do not get art, music, or physical education classes.  These are the classes that allow them to participate on a free and open level.  My hope is that this will change. 

We are all artists, dancers, actors, and musicians.  We all need to make those small steps and move out of our comfort zones.

Hugs to all,