Workshop expands art to those with special needs

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Zach Beckman, center, shows Alyssa Schwenk, 15, both of Jasper, the beginning of his mixed-media artwork during a special needs art workshop at the Jasper Arts Center on Saturday. The works of art made by the 20 participants will be exhibited in the Krempp Gallery on Friday, Nov. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. 


JASPER — Emily Lents loves drawing flowers. Her sister, Mallory Lents, is drawn to hearts.

The 29-year-old twins — both have Down syndrome and live in Ireland — recalled making art pieces during their time at Jasper High School, but said they don’t often get the chance any more.

But, at the first-of-its-kind art workshop at the Jasper Arts Center on Saturday, they did.

Area residents with special needs were invited to the new event, which walked them through the process of making a piece of mixed-media artwork. Their creations resembled mosaics and featured flowers, animals, a baby, even the Indiana University trident. They were encouraged to make whatever they wanted to create.

“At the heart of what we do, a big role of our mission is to make sure everybody in the community has access to the arts and knowledge of the arts and the opportunity to participate,” said Corina Mack, program coordinator at the arts center. “And with that, we’re aware that we need to be really accessible and accommodate anybody that we feel isn’t comfortable with joining in a typical workshop. So, we realized there was a need for that.”

Saturday’s event drew 20 participants. Some of their caretakers stayed through the two-hour event to help them through the processes, such as drawing their subject, covering it in yarn or cutting and tearing scrapbook paper and gluing it around their creation. Student volunteers from Jasper Middle School and Jasper High School also lent a hand.

The event was made possible through the combined efforts of Jasper Community Arts, The Beehive and the Optimist Club of Jasper.

“I heard it was going to be a lot of fun,” said workshop attendee Kathy Schroering, 58, of Jasper. She makes greeting cards in her free time, and enjoys creating arts and crafts. But even those who aren’t artists were smiling and laughing during their time at the event. Fellow attendee and Jasper High School sophomore Klayton Mundy isn’t big on art, for example. But he liked it because it gave him the chance to see his friends.

The workshop was the first in a series of recurring events Jasper Community Arts will host for those with special needs. Mack said that while dates have not been set for future workshops, the plan is that they will take place throughout the year. Future topics could include dance and aerobic activity as well as a sensory-friendly, live performance.

Ali Bromm of Huntingburg, 16, and her mother, Elaine, work together to draw a dolphin, Ali's favorite ocean animal, during a special needs art workshop at the Jasper Arts Center on Saturday. "She loves to do art. She's always drawing at home," Elaine said.

She explained that making art can promote confidence and happiness in everyone. All ages of people with special needs are invited to attend the workshops.

“We would love the opportunity to offer any workshop, any activity we have to them,” Mack said of prospective attendees of future events. “If they have an idea that we haven’t thought of, we’re certainly open to that and would love the input.”

Jasper High School senior Jadon Mehringer has volunteered at events for those with special needs since he was in fifth grade. He enjoys the connections and relationships he’s made over the years. Beginning next year, he plans on studying occupational therapy with the ultimate goal of helping people with special needs.

“It changes your life,” he said. “It really is awesome. They teach you so much about how to live a happy life, and how to be just loving towards everyone.”

The artwork created at Saturday’s event will be displayed in the Krempp Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

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