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VSA-VAD: Visualizing & Realizing Artistic Potential in Students with Special Needs

Arts Horizons is pleased to highlight and recognize our arts education programs under contract with John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Department of VSA and Accessibility. During this academic year, Arts Horizons has been contracted for 4 visual arts residencies at District 75 and Hospital schools in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx through the VSA Children’s Visual Arts Discovery program (VSA-VAD). The schools are:  PS 226M @ PS 76M (A. Philip Randolph) in Manhattan, PS 188X @ PS 34X in the Bronx, Queens Transition Center @ High School for Law Enforcement & Public Safety in Queens, and Hospital Schools @ Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

Through VSA-VAD, Arts Horizons provided approximately 8 hours of instruction per student at each of the schools listed above. Our residencies fulfilled VSA-VAD’s aim “to build students’ skills through the application of sound pedagogical principals and quality curricula to create original words of visual art and the opportunity to explore one more visual arts media and genres.” They also aligned well with the Kennedy Center’s overarching theme for this year:  UBUNTU:  Yo Soy…Je suis…I am…Because you are. Ubuntu, which roughly translates to “humanity towards others” in the Nguni Bantu languages of Southern Africa, focuses on art’s unique ability to “create and sustain connections across race, culture, religion, and experience.” An added incentive for students was the opportunity to submit work to be showcased at the Kennedy Center’s “International Art Program for Children with Disabilities” live and online exhibitions in Washington D.C.

Longtime AH Teaching Artist Mr. Mansa Mussa and renowned Staten Island-based visual artist Ms. Sarah Yuster conducted successful and highly-regarded visual arts residencies this year. Mansa is a New Jersey-based visual and performing artist, educator, and consultant who recently celebrated his 20th year with Arts Horizons. Sarah is known for her paintings of urban landscapes and portraits as well as her “Small Truths” film project which documents the experiences of immigration through the eyes of children. AH Program Coordinator Kiran Rajagopalan had the opportunity to visit their classes and observe how they inspired students to showcase their creativity through compelling visual arts projects. Let’s take a quick peek into their classes!

We start with Sarah’s residency for Queens Transition Center at High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety. This District 75 school primarily serves high school students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) along with documented cases of violence and/or clinically diagnosed mental disorders. Visual art is effective among such students when it promotes creativity in a minimally triggering or volatile environment. Sarah was a nurturing, patient, and gentle instructor, and she was able to introduce her students to life drawing, action sketching, portraiture, and mixed media. According to Sarah, “once it became clear that [students] could delve into a personal endeavor of their choosing, many of them came in week after week to carefully attend a singular piece.” As a result, Sarah was able to submit several beautiful pieces for the Kennedy Center’s exhibition!

Mansa’s visual arts residency for District 75 elementary school PS 226M at PS 76M was devoted to collage-making. This artistic medium effectively showcases artistic creativity with easy-to-use materials such as stickers, stamps, gluesticks, and porous papers. Therefore, it is age-appropriate and safe for elementary school students with special needs and disabilities. Mansa is appreciated for his sensitive approach to teaching students in Hospital Schools and District 75 as well as his ability to pace classes without unnecessary wasting of time and/or art supplies. In this class, students spent the period adding an additional layer of 3-D objects made from grooved sticks and porous paper to their collages with the able assistance of teachers and paraprofessional educators. He even had students photograph their work using his iPad at the end of class!

Mansa also delivered visual arts residencies through VSA-VAD at PS 188X @ PS 34X and Hospital Schools @ Kings County Hospital. As one of our senior-most teaching artists, he will be representing Arts Horizons at the Kennedy Center’s VSA Interactions:  Arts and Special Education Conference in August!

AH Artist Spotlight: Mansa K. Mussa

Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image.

Mansa K. Mussa is a visual and performing artist, arts’ consultant, art’s educator and Arts Horizons teaching artist.  A Newark, NJ native, Mussa earned a BA in Media Arts/Television Production from New Jersey City  University. Traveling  extensively in the United States, Cuba, West Africa, South Africa, Paris and the Caribbean, Mussa has had the opportunity to document human movement and events.

Some of his work includes:  The Art of Dance; Cuba Diary: A Glimpse Inside the Hidden Republic; Eyewitness: The New South Africa; Ghana: An African Portrait; Pieces of a Dream/Nu Collage; and the historic Newark, A Day In the City Photo-Documentary. His art, photography and collage work has been featured in exhibits, print media, calendars, brochures and more.

Among his impressive body of work, he has worked with numerous students as an AH teaching artist. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “I love to teach because I love to learn.” said Manssa as he reflects on a summer residency. He continues, “Each opportunity gives me the chance to explore, to grow and to experience something a little different.” During a summer residency at Englewood Public Library, Manssa and students worked on a combination of portrait photography, mask-making, and collage.  Some of the collage work can be found below

Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image.

Mansa Mussa’s next project is A Day in the Township Photo-Documentary. Mussa is apart of the West Orange Arts Council and in keeping with their mission to “cultivate the arts within our community,” the Council proposes a photo-documentary featuring face and places of the township during a twenty-four hour day in the fall of 2011. The concept is based on two similar projects; The Day in the Life of America and  Newark: A Day in the City, both photo-documentary projects.

The project will utilize twenty-five local photographers to document community events, activities in the business sector, public and private schools, restaurants, hotels, parks and recreational facilities, houses of worships, historical sites, arts’ institutions and the township’s municipal departments. This sounds like another innovative project from Mansa Mussa. We here at Arts Horizons are excited to see the finished project.

A Special Night for NJ Teaching Artists

N E W  J E R S E Y
Arts Education Collective

Presents

A Special Evening of Networking and Community Building for NJ Teaching Artists

Thursday, May 12, 2011
reception at 5:30 pm
~followed by an optional 7:30 pm performance

F.M. Kirby Carriage House
at
Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive
Millburn, NJ 07041

*To view the invitation click the link below

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