ROANOKE, Va. – The Taubman Museum of Art received hundreds of thousands of dollars through a grant to bring therapeutic art to people with diverse abilities.
Every week this past summer, eight young adults with autism stacked LEGOs, molded clay, and danced their hearts out at the Taubman Museum of Art.
“It was an open area where they got to freely explore different hands-on art expression activities,” Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Clinical Director Samantha Zaldivar said. “And it was fun to watch students that we’ve been with for years, what they chose to do.”
It was a taste of the pilot program called Happy HeARTs, designed to be a form of art therapy for people who identify with visual and hearing impairments or other diverse abilities.
“We heard that there’s nothing like this in our region to serve so many different organizations,” Taubman Museum of Art Executive Director Cindy Petersen said. “And not only just the individuals but also the families.”
Zaldivar added that her students practiced their motor skills and improved their communication capabilities.
“Programs like this help them learn to advocate for their wants and needs,” Zaldivar said. “Help them communicate effectively. And as instructors, it shows us how well they are doing with that.”
Since then, the center introduced some of the sensory art to their classrooms.
Now with a grant of $243,104 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the art museum can expand its program to serve 17 organizations in three years.
“Open our doors even wider and connect people with art and towards our mission and our community,” Petersen said.
The program is free and hosted on days when the museum is closed to work with each person one-on-one.