Staff from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and some of the people who the nonprofit serves tour the Detroit Institute of Arts before trying classes to make ceramic art. / DIA/File
By Jerry Wolffe, For Digital First Media
Posted: 10/05/15, 4:17 PM EDT | Updated: 2 hrs ago
The Detroit Institute of Arts is bringing discovery, joy and art to the lives of those with disabilities, seniors, and veterans with its Community Group Program.
The program provides meaningful experiences through art with gallery tours and hands-on art making. The last class this fall for those with disabilities will be Thursday.
During September and early October, the DIA invited 15 to 18 people with disabilities who the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center serves to visit the Institute to create artworks, says Patty Sims Sunisloe, MORC’s project director.
“They are opening their doors and hearts to people with disabilities and changing lives to a great extent,” says Sims Sunisloe, who added individuals MORC serves attended classes in the Walter Gibbs educational studio on Sept. 17, 24 and Oct. 1.
The MORC attendees have made painted masks and lithographs and will frame them at their last class this week, Sims Sunisloe says. DIA spokesman Larisa Zade said the artworks from last year’s session are on display in the teaching studio.
“The DIA has been proud to partner with local social service agencies for over 20 years through the Community Group Program,” says the DIA’s Director of the Studio Program Charles Garling. “We strive for diversity in the organizations with whom we seek to partner, working to serve individuals across all ages and physical and cognitive abilities.”
Projects during the past year have been multimedia self-portraits, clay masks, drums and pots, printmaking, bookmaking and wood sculpture.
Current groups in the program besides those from MORC include veterans from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Piquette Square for Veterans and seniors from the Hanna House, all of Detroit, according to a statement from the DIA.
“One of our goals is to help people understand that the Detroit Institute of Arts is for everyone, regardless of your abilities or background with art,” Garling says. “Through the Community Group Program, we strive to provide safe space for individuals, who might otherwise be marginalized, to explore and express through art-based discussions and art-making experiences. Year after year, program participants have happily expressed their appreciation of the program, noting an increase in their confidence and openness to communicate with others.”
To facilitate these classes, DIA teaching artists such as Byron Nemela utilize a learner-centered, process-oriented teaching practice which uses motivating questions and topics that allow participants to create something personally meaningful, Zade says.
Sims Sunisloe adds, “The feedback I consistently get from families, parents and caregivers is that this program is changing lives. We really appreciate how warm, welcoming and hospitable the staff at the DIA has been to everyone.
“The staff’s ability to find a way to reach inside those with disabilities to express their talents is something quite extraordinary,” she says. “(There are) no boundaries to their abilities to be expressive or show who they are as an individual.”
The DIA paid for materials and for transportation on a private bus from MORC facilities in Clinton Township or Auburn Hills to the DIA.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.