In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month after years of advocacy efforts from The Arc and the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) community. Just recently, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law to remove hurtful terminology from federal legislation, demonstrating a shift toward greater respect for people with I/DD.
However, there is still much to be done. There are millions of people living with an intellectual or developmental disability (now closer to 7 million instead of the 4 million to which Reagan referred). Their needs and wants have not changed dramatically since 1987 because they are the same as what we all desire. Opportunity. Respect. Self-determination.
The Arc of the Arts Studio & Gallery provides a accepting environment for local Austin adults with learning disabilities to learn to express themselves through a variety of mediums, build their identity as artists, and improve social skills useful for future endeavors.
During a class day, clients work independently on projects with guidance and technical advice from trained artists and volunteers. All of our artists make the final decisions about their work and advance through individual critiques conducted by our staff to discuss their artistic growth.
With a range of disabilities, some emotions are expressed with more precision through the arts. While there is a lack of competition in our studio, there is still room for boasting. At the end of each class, artists display and share ideas behind their day’s work as the rest of the group listens. During our Tuesday classes, clients transform from fine artists to performance artists in activities such as song writing, karaoke, dancing, as well as filming and recording. Professional musicians also join us to play songs for clients to dance and sing along to, providing inspiration for their art-making.
We invite you to join us during March to raise awareness for I/DD and the challenges ahead. Throughout the month you’ll find posts on our Twitter and Facebook pages with some simple suggestions as to what you can do to help raise awareness. We welcome your comments on why protecting and promoting the rights of people with I/DD is important to you.