Visual Art Discovery with VSA provided under contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

2014-1-15 mansa arthur 188

Arts Horizons is a proud collaborator to lead Visual Art Discovery programs with VSA provided under contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The work is inspired by the VSA International Art Program for Children with Disabilities ‘Teacher Resource Guide, Edition 2013: A series of visual art lesson plans designed to engage students with disabilities.


This unit of lessons re-conceptualizes the “self-portrait” in alternative, challenging, symbolic, and beautiful ways, breaking from traditional teaching of self-portraiture. The lessons conform to the following principles of Universal Design: (1) Multiple Means of Representation – presenting information in multiple formats so that all students understand the content, (2) Multiple Means of Expression – providing multiple options for students to express themselves, and (3) Multiple Means of Engagement – providing multiple opportunities for students to work in ways that are interesting and challenging for them. More information and a link to the full resource guide can be accessed online at

Our first featured 2014 program highlights the work of students at PS 188 in the Bronx working with Master Teaching artists Mansa Mussa and Arthur Wilson.  Educators enthusiastically supported student learning by integrating the lessons into their weekly curriculum for students with special needs.  One of the lesson’s incorporated was entitled, “I am a Sandwhich,” where students created metaphoric self portrait clay box in the shape of sandwich. This project was adapted to help students create a more abstract way to approach the creation of a self portrait.

The project was further weaved into creative learning via the original “I am a sandwhich mantra.” (see below).  In the word of a participating educator Mr. Devaney, “I appreciate the time and effort you have shown to our class. The art pieces are excellent and you really have captured a genius of the person beneath the cloak of disability. This is the mark of an artist and I thank you both” Mr. Devaney.



I am a sandwich

I am a sandwich
But not a sandwich you really eat,
I am a sandwich from your imagination
Like a sandwich filled with kangaroos
Mustard, laughter, and whole wheat

I can be a sandwich flying through space
Piled up high with your fondest wish
Ham, courage, gazelles, and jelly bean fish

I am a special sandwich
Never left alone in the refrigerator
On an old cracked dish,
‘cause I am a magical sandwich
Filled with beautiful monarch butterflies
Chocolate, day dreams, and carrot sticks

I am a brave sandwich filled with honey
Dollar bills, and bumble bees in a hive
Trying to flee
Would you like to share my sandwich with me?

I am a pumpernickel sandwich filled with turtles
Apples, guitars, and shooting stars,
And sometimes I even throw in a few candy bars

I can also be a double decker submarine sandwich
Filled with sneakers, lightning bugs lit up in jars,
With a little mayonnaise and racing cars

When I’m really imaginative
I am a sandwich filled with bells ringing
Fried chicken, friendship, and diamond rings
Why I’m a sandwich fit for a king
My sandwich can even dance
And sing!

For more information, contact Dena Malarek, Director of NYC Residencies and Special Populations at

VSA logo 14

About Arts Horizons

Arts Horizons is a premier not-for-profit arts-in-education organization that provides live professional performances and artist-in-residence programs to students and professional development for teachers throughout the entire tri-state region. Our commitment is to make music, art, dance, theatre, new media and creative writing an integral part not only of learning, but of life. Through the transformative impact of the arts, we reach young people through many dimensions, breaking down the barriers of language and culture, accelerating personal growth, and stimulating children’s full potential to prepare them for life in the twenty-first century.

Posted on February 5, 2014, in New York, Residency, SEAA. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. That was a great acknowledgement by Mr. Devaney. Part of our process involves a total team teaching approach with the teaching artists and classroom teachers working in collaboration. Our process would not be successful without the assistance of the school’s para-professionals who act as an additional conduit in the implementation of the art/spoken word lessons. They help with students who are wheel-chair bound, verbally unresponsive, and hearing impaired.
    Unit Coordinator Mr. Jose Isaac is a diligent administrator who works to make sure we have access to whatever services we require.


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