Posted September 24, 2016 in Member News
inside/out is a multi-year project aimed at providing the environment, tools and teaching to encourage students at The Help Group West’s Village Glen program in finding their creative voice through photography and writing, exploring their world and communicating through imagery and written expression those things that speak to their thoughts, feelings, values and ideas. The Help Group’s Village Glen School is an environment created to support individuals with diverse talents, strengths and needs, many of whom are on the autism spectrum. Founded in 1975, The Help Group is the largest, most innovative and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States serving children, adolescents and young adults with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional challenges.
The first project, begun in the Fall of 2014 and working with high school students, was facilitated by Clinical Director Pat Sandler and Art Educator Dr. Kelly Kotowski. Students were each given a digital camera and exposed to a wide variety of photography. During the course of the project, there were specific photographic assignments given, as well as structured and unstructured writing exercises. Students were asked to document those aspects of themselves and their lives that spoke loudest to them, and expressed their thoughts and feelings about identity and their worlds. Each student responded to their final chosen images with writing.
The second project, begun in the Fall of 2015 and working with elementary students at Village Glen West, was facilitated by Pat Sandler. Each student was given a disposable black and white film camera with which to document the things that they cared about. During the course of the project, they again looked at many genres of photography, practiced “seeing”, and utilized structured and freeform writing exercises to encourage and increase written expression. As in the first project, each student’s final chosen image was used to encourage written expression in 1:1 meetings with Ms. Sandler.
At the end of both projects, each student engaged in a collaborative portrait session with Pat Sandler. These sessions were created in order to give them each an experience of being fully present, and allowing that presence to be witnessed by another, in this case, the photographer. Once the portraits were printed, students engaged once again in a writing exercise, first as a class together , and then in sessions with Ms. Sandler, as they responded to their image. This writing was very structured and gave students two prompts. The first was “When I look at this picture I see…” and the second, “Most people don’t know that I…”.
The portraits were intentionally done at the end of each project in order to document what was expected to be an increased sense of trust and willingness to be seen; a positive outcome directly connected to facilitating a creative, safe, art-making environment with children, teens or adults.