Wednesday, July 30, 2014

DIA volunteers help residents with disabilities discover artistic talent

Ashley Smith of Rochester Hills looks at the ceramic tile her friend, Brian Spuz of St. Clair Shores, is working. DIA art studio instructor Kathleen Rashid gives advice to both. Photo submitted by Jerry Wolffe
Artists with the Detroit Institute of Arts are trying to help people with disabilities who are served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc., discover their artistic ability.
In a trip from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center in Clinton Township to the DIA, 11 people with disabilities and five staff toured the institute and then had sessions where they worked on ceramic tiles. They will decorate the tiles and eventually take them home after receiving skilled guidance from DIA art studio instructors/teaching artists Lavern Homan, Kathleen Rashid, Eric Gill, Soh Suzuki, Vito Valdez and Byron Nemela.
Before the hour-long art session, however, gallery docent Dave Galli guided the students, caregivers and MORC staff on a tour of several galleries and asked the individuals to describe the master works. Docents Judy Garvey and Judy Anderson also led guided tours during other sessions with DIA artists and those served by MORC.
“All of us are teaching artists,” Nemela said of those helping the students with disabilities.
The MORC artists were brought to the art studio by a chartered Indian Trails bus, sat at several tables and each was given two square four-inch ceramic tiles and told to draw whatever they wanted. People from MORC homes in Macomb County are taken one day and those from Oakland County are brought to the DIA the next day.
Rashid spent a lot of time helping Ashley Smith of Rochester Hills and her friend, Brian Spuz of St. Clair Shores, as the professional artists treated the MORC students with respect and patience.
Everyone worked hard on drawing on their tile. After an initial pencil sketch was done, Homan and Rashid brought out artist pallets for each table with blues, yellows, whites, greens and many colors the students could use to complete their works.
MORC Project Director Patricia Sims Sunisloe said she hoped the art works created by people MORC serves could be put on display at the nonprofit’s offices in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills.
“I think this program means a great deal to the participants,” said the sister of one of the MORC artists. “She told me Marty cannot stop taking about this experience and how much he is loving being a part of it,” Sims Sunisloe said.
“It’s fantastic for everybody,” said caregiver Barbara Lingenfelter.
A mid-July session – one of eight in July -- with the art studio instructors went quickly. Some students drew sketches of pets; others stars and planetary objects; some painted tiles saying “Mom is My Best Friend,” and everyone cooperated and helped each other.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.