Indiana State University Newsroom

Students provide art program for developmentally disabled adults

August 13, 2015

Students from Indiana State University's Community School of the Arts spent their summer providing art classes for adults at Developmental Services, Inc.

Called "Art for Life," the twice-a-week program was aimed at improving the quality of life for adults with mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

Sarah Cole, who is working on her Master of Fine Arts in painting, has been with the Community School of the Arts for two summers, and said the program made an impact on the clients' lives even in the short nine weeks they were allotted.

"[The students] just everyday were excited when we came in. We only had four hours a week with them but I wish we'd had more because each day they were happy to see us come (and) sad to see us go."

Teaching alongside Cole was Shayla Fish, a senior in Indiana State's art education program. When she began teaching with Art for Life, Fish said she was nervous, but she soon found that it would be a rewarding experience for everyone.

"When we first started [the students] were kind of excited but reluctant, and they were comfortable with us coming here," she said. "They tried more things as time went on in the program."

The students began to find confidence and comfort in their Art for Life sessions and the teachers enjoyed sharing their love of art to help others.

"Art has always been there for me so I want to give art to everyone," said Cole, "I just want to share art and I want to make art with kids and people."

Fish said that broadening the student's experiences with different art mediums was a welcomed challenge.

"We've done everything from ceramics to painting to pastels. We've done a lot of things and they really love it," she said

The students showed improvement during the Art for Life sessions and began to feel more comfortable experimenting with new techniques and styles.

Jodi Lemmons, day program manager at Developmental Services, Inc. said Art for Life was an important addition to the clients' schedules.

"Once special needs kids grow into adults, they are practically forgotten," she said.

That belief is why Art for Life, funded by a grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, has been such a beloved program for all who are involved.

"Art, I think, is one of the things that touches them and brings out personality and brings out communication and just togetherness in the community," said Cole, "it sort of reminds everyone that everyone needs attention. Everyone needs to feel like they are heard and I think art really does that."

Photo: - Shayla Fish, a senior art educaton major at Indiana State University, works with developmentally disabled adults at Development Services, Inc. in Terre Haute July 22, 2015 as part of Art for Life, a program offered by the univesity's Community School of the Arts. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Sarah Cole, a Master of Fine Arts student at Indiana State University, lends a hand during an Art for Life session at Developmental Services, Inc. in Terre Haute. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Writer: Haley Sluboski, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or