VSA Delaware honored its young artists May 18 with a reception for its annual Celebration of Creativity exhibit. The organization helps people with a broad spectrum of disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts.
As Delaware State University students rushed by the Art Center Gallery May 18, preparing for finals and graduation, the young students inside the gallery were in a far more carefree mood. Some of them flashed gap-toothed smiles when they found their artwork hanging on the gallery’s walls, while others cheered after finishing their rendition of “The Name Game.”
The exuberant reception was the big finish for local students involved in VSA Delaware’s artist-in-residence programs. The reception included performances from Kent County Community School students in Capital schools, and art by students in Kent County Intensive Learning Center at Caesar Rodney schools.
VSA Delaware reaches people with a broad spectrum of disabilities — mental, physical, emotional, behavioral — and helps them learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts.
Stefanie Jaye has been teaching drama and music through VSA Delaware for four years at Capital schools. She’s worked with some of her students since they were in middle school, and has seen them develop.
“I look at each one individually and they all have grown in interest and confidence,” she said.
She’s taught them about campfire songs, how to write their own fable and pulled out her guitar so they could sing along to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” She said using hand masks to do scenes from fairy tales was particularly satisfying for physically disabled students. Even though they couldn’t change into a costume, they could still become a different character by simply using the mask.
One of the reception’s highlights was the performance of “All Star” from the movie “Shrek.” The students substituted their own lyrics, touting the work of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and others, adding the refrain “Why can’t we be treated fairly.”
“These groups have an awesome attitude,” she said.
After KCCS students finished the second performance of the day, students in Caesar Rodney’s ILC and Delaware Autistic Program clamored to find their artwork hanging on the gallery’s walls.
W.B. Simpson Elementary second-grader Micah Rothwell humbly admitted that he liked seeing his beaded, fabric piece framed and hanging in a gallery.
“When you take your time, it looks nice,” he said.
Jennifer Gunther, VSA Delaware Executive Director, said having the work in a professional setting is part of the thrill for students. It also makes it accessible to the community to see.
“The important thing is bringing our visual arts together, and presenting it in a professional format,” Gunther said.