In this Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts class, artists get to be themselves
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Diane Seabrook enjoys art, no matter what medium she’s dabbling in. And through the bright-red threshold to the art studio tucked in the back of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, sporadic laughter interrupts talk of art Wednesday afternoon.”After all, art should be fun,” Seabrook said.Three female students – Jenny Elome, 22, Kara Brohard, 25, and Chelsea Jarosz, 23 – meet each Wednesday afternoon for Seabrook’s special needs art class. Each of the girls work on separate projects using different media, whatever they fancy on any given day.
A smile never leaves the face of Brohard as she makes Christmas tree ornaments out of colored pipe cleaners and pine cones. The festive decorations will hang from her very first Christmas Tree in her first apartment.Jarosz stands at an easel and paints in bright colored Tempera, while Elome manipulates water colors on stiff white paper.Watercolor is Elome’s favorite medium – at least it is on this particular day. The three girls all have disabilities – Elome has Down syndrome – but this class allows them the place and the time for art.”Here is my masterpiece,” Elome said as she held up her first painting of the day.The watercolor was of a bird perched on the limb of a tree. In the original photo the bird was yellow and gray; Elome painted hers purple. It’s the artist inside coming through in her work.”It’s called ‘Masterpiece,'” she said with a big smile.
Fitting for her vibrant sense of humor.She places the painting aside, swishes her paintbrush in a half-filled cup of water that quickly turns the clear water a green hue, jabs the paintbrush in another of the colors and begins adding life to a sketch of a Christmas Tree.”This one’s called, ‘Meatball Christmas Tree,'” Elome said.Instructor Diane Seabrook teaches 14 art classes at the center. She says all of her classes teach one thing: that everyone can do art if they just try.”I designed an easy way to paint, so anyone can do it,” Seabrook said. “What I do here is expand peoples’ minds about art.”Each of the three girls has a unique disability, but this class is for people with special needs. Regardless, Seabrook doesn’t give them special instruction. They’re just artists to her.
“These girls are such good artists,” Seabrook said. “I don’t ask what their disability is, it doesn’t matter. When we are here, we’re just artists.”Seabrook only helps as needed. She roughly sketched the outline of the bird and tree branch for Elome’s water color. She just wanted to paint that day.For some she helps a little more than others. It’s up to the students to decide how much instruction they want.”Chelsea only took instruction from me for the first year,” Seabrook said. “After that she didn’t want my influence because she knew that she needed her own style. And she is a very good painter.”Chelsea has cerebral palsy. Her left arm hangs rigid with her hand constantly clenched toward her body as if protecting a dear possession. Communicating through speech is difficult because of her disability, but all that is unimportant behind the bright-red threshold at the entrance of the studio. It’s evident in her wide smile and the brightness in her eyes that she enjoys painting.”All the people just have fun here,” Seabrook said. “And these girls really enjoy it.”
Seabrook has taught the special needs class for the past six years. Sometimes more than three attend, sometimes it’s just them. Through the years, these three have consistently made the trip to the art center once a week. Elome has only missed two classes in that time. But they have all created a bond that is reminiscent of a sewing circle. These ladies are friends.Brohard, taking a break from making her ornaments, broke out in laughter, a recurring theme in the cozy studio. It’s not long before the others follow suit.”We’re pretty calm today, we get rowdy. It can get pretty wild some days,” Seabrook said. “We sure have a lot of fun.”Exactly what art should be.Contact John Gardner: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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