Daily Archives: April 8, 2006

Visually impaired youngsters find creative touch

Democrat & Chronicle: Living

Visually impaired youngsters find creative touch

Stuart Low
Staff writer

(December 25, 2005) —

In a Village Gate classroom, five youngsters run their hands through a colorful jumble of foam hearts, shells and marbles. Their fingers eagerly sift through shapes and textures that their eyes can barely make out.

“Try any of them!” urges Shannon Halligan, an art therapist at Village Gate’s Sage Arts Center. “Each feels a little bit different. You’re going to design a tile using these pieces.”

Josh Watson, a Gates pupil wearing a Spider Spider-Man T-shirt, daubs a few shells with Elmer’s Glue-All. Peering intently through thick wire-rimmed glasses, he arranges the shells in bold geometric shapes on a tile.

Nearby, four other blind or visually impaired children experiment with paint and spools of tape. Like 13-year-old Josh, they are pioneers in a new program launched by the local Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired- – Goodwill.

ABVI spokesman Timothy Gleason says that the Creative Vision Program “allows a child to understand art beyond the use of sight … as a guide for self-expression.” That may seem an ambitious goal, but the organizers insist it’s well within reach.

“Art is always thought of as a visual medium,” says program coordinator Sarah Favro, an ABVI children’s specialist. “But even if children’s vision is limited, they still can create art. And they can get the satisfaction of building something of their own.”

She speaks from experience.

Nearly blind herself, she can perceive light but not shapes. She believes that the new hands-on course will give youngsters improved motor coordination, concentration and self-confidence.

The materials used are largely tactile. Children make prints by rubbing crayons over textured designs, build puppets and construct plaster masks.

The materials and two art therapists hired from Sage Arts are funded through a $5,000 grant from the local Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation. The seven youngsters — all clients of ABVI — are 3 to 17 years old and travel from Monroe, Wayne and Orleans counties.

They can enroll in three free courses, each meeting for six 1½-hour sessions over three months. Topics include art and self-expression, learning about artists and art based on nature.

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