Monarch’s Art Program Expands on Creativity and Community

Murals, canvases and colored ceramic bird houses line the halls and art rooms of many of our day programs. Staff members are embracing the call to action as Monarch transitioned from the traditional sheltered workshop model to a more inclusive, arts-based curriculum earlier last year. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modeling, used as a remedial activity or an aid to diagnosis.

Recognizing the benefits that art can help many of the people we support in both expression and even by building skills was Monarch’s leading decision for the transition. Monarch’s Senior Director of Philanthropy Laurie Weaver was quoted in the Outer Banks Voice recently affirming the importance of programs like The Power of Art at a personal and organizational level.

“The Power of Art gives Monarch participants the opportunity to experience and explore creative expression. Even the simple act of holding a paintbrush builds dexterity and muscle control for some,” affirmed Weaver.

Several staff members are lending their natural artistic tendencies to projects and are working diligently to create a variety of fun arts and crafts activities for people supported, including the talented Casey Butler, vocational developmental specialist at Stanly Industrial Services (SIS).

“Art is the freedom to express yourself in ways that reflect your mood and likes. It is therapeutic and we use it here at SIS to promote individuality and creativity. Around here we call it the Art Effect,” says Butler.

That same effect is visible every Thursday when many of the participants at SIS gather just down the road at the E.E. Waddell Community Center for a new project. Melissa Markham, developmental specialist with Monarch, came up with some ideas for Valentine’s Day crafts for participants to take home to their loved ones.

“The reason it’s therapeutic, I believe, is because they’re bringing out their passion and they’re able to show people that they can do it. And it only comes out when you seek to find it,” says Markham.

Art can go beyond canvas, too. The group at Montgomery Community Living Skills (MCLS) recently started working on a quilt with its new sewing and stitching machines and Monarch’s Creative Arts & Community Center (MCACC) has an entire room dedicated to jewelry making and ceramics.

MCACC’s Creative Art Specialist Teresa Hardison adds, “Everybody has their preferred medium and what they like to do, and we try to nurture that. We help them develop projects aligned with their interest. And if they have yet to identify what they like, we give them resources to find something that appeals to them. Each person has their niche.”

Monarch’s day programs shift to art programming ensures it offers something for everyone and involves the neighboring communities to each program is key. Studio 651 in Winston-Salem is currently working on a repurposing one of its spaces into a permanent gallery that showcases art created by the people we support and plans to host a series of open houses inviting people from surrounding areas.

“Art builds a universal connection between people, and the people we support love finding their passion and finding projects that fit their interests,” says Elizabeth Leavitt, community engagement team leader at Studio 651.

Posted on: Friday March 31, 2017