Inclusion. The blog for the Center for Disability Studies.

An absolute pleasure

By Jasmina Chatani

Spread the word to end the word T-shirt

Steve Slotkin and volunteer Anna Mellos work together on his marble painting project at Artfest 2018.

I can’t shake the memory of Artfest. Don’t want to, really. The creative workshop and community celebration that the Center for Disabilities Studies and Art Therapy Express hosted a couple Saturdays ago lasted just two hours, but the wall-to-wall smiles, the camaraderie, the incredible artwork left an indelible mark.

Opportunities for Artfest participants – individuals of all ages, backgrounds and types of disabilities – to express their artistic sides appeared endless, thanks in no small part to the encouragement they received from UD student volunteers.

  • Steve Slotkin carefully tilted a box to roll painted marbles around a canvas, which allowed him to create an image bursting with blue, yellow and orange paint.
  • Haley Shiber added pops of orange paint to an event favorite, the floor mural, while moving across it in her powerchair with wheels covered in purple tape.
  • Brittney Graves adorned a plaster mask with red sparkly pipe cleaners.
  • Roger Yeager squirted a bottle onto a spinning canvas powered by a fan to create an eye-catching purple and blue spin art painting.
  • Kelly Bonner experimented with green, gooey slime wrapped around her fingers.
  • Edward Edwards (on his birthday, no less!) donned a colorful jesters hat and play-microphone while making silly faces at the photo booth station.

As a graduate assistant with CDS’s Communications and Advocacy unit, I took on the role of Artfest coordinator, which in the weeks leading up to event made me focus on its logistics. But the event’s inclusiveness and accessibility, the friendships and self-expression that were so vividly on display – the sheer joy of the day – are what I see and think about now.

Along with the people who, most of all, made Artfest a success. Lisa Bartoli, the creative director of Artfest and the lead artist of Art Therapy Express, has been Artfest’s guiding spirit since the beginning. This year marked her 11th Artfest, and she and her team of outstanding interns wowed participants and volunteers alike with their adaptive art tools, inspired art stations and drive to make the event innovative on the one hand and fun on the other.

Artfest stallwarts like Shiber, who this time around attended her 10th Artfest, and the wonderful student volunteers – several of whom have volunteered at multiple Artfests – also ensured its success.

Made it extraordinary.

And, for me, made Artfest an absolute pleasure.

About the Author

Jasmina Chatani is an alumna of the University of Delaware, holding both a master’s and Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Human Development and Family Studies and Cognitive Science from UD in May 2017.

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