Guest article by Janet Lee
According to research, there is a continuing disparity between employment outcomes for individuals with and without disabilities. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are often routed away from community employment during the transition from school to adulthood.
The Arc of the Arts Program stands to address this issue. Part of The Arc of the Capital Area, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for Central Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this Austin arts education program helps clients achieve independence and employment through post-secondary education.
One of the oldest volunteer-driven associations in the country, The Arc not only provides the opportunity for IDD individuals to become active participants in the arts community, but also gain a support system that provides resources for competitive employment after high school.
Transition From School to Adulthood
According to StateData.info, as of 2017, only 23 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities work, compared to 73 percent of people without disabilities. Dr. Mary Van Haneghan, CEO of The Arc, explains that when IDD individuals leave high school, there aren’t many options. Because rehabilitation systems in Texas aren’t as advanced as those in other states, there is a large need for organizations like The Arc to foster employment and continuing education within their communities.
“Having a job, having a place to go gives you purpose and gives you value,” Van Haneghan explained. “We take it for granted to a certain extent, and that’s why providing services like these are huge.”
Through the arts, The Arc of the Arts Program creates customized employment that promotes client-directed goals and self-determination. The Arc partnered with Austin Community College’s STEPS program to become a satellite site, and also started a supported employment program. The goal is to integrate these two under the arts program, so clients can learn skills that are applicable in a work environment.
Experiencing Various Art Media
From visual to performing arts to digital media, not only does the program include various art media, but the opportunity for clients to work with members of the local arts community, such as Zach Theatre. Clients have access to canvases, paint, instructors, and creative software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Art Education Studio Manager Amber Nelson explained that having a diverse array of resources, networks, and art forms is vital to development and growth. “We try to work with local community members to help the programs be more successful, and [offer] the opportunity to learn with different people,” she explained.
Competitive Goals and Resources Bring Positive Outcomes
The team members behind the arts program have witnessed their clients grow tremendously. By utilizing various art media, participants open up and develop the means to pursue their goals.
By acquiring skills such as Photoshop or time management, clients develop into competitive candidates for jobs. One client has been hired at Facebook, Van Haneghan enthusiastically shared with me.
“Just to see them blossom through supported employment and through the arts studio is amazing…absolutely amazing,” Nelson reiterated.
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Community Through Arc of the Arts
Both Nelson and Van Haneghan expressed that art is individualized–anyone has the ability to create, which instills a sense of ownership. With Austin’s affinity for local art, The Arc grants clients unique opportunities to be active participants in the community. Client artwork is professionally shown and sold at art shows, and commission is provided for sold work.
Here are six standout pieces by Arc clients (all photos provided by The Arc of the Capital Area). You can see more on the organization’s online shop.
- “The Dancing Flowers” by Ali H.
- “Aerosmith Live” by Jessica B.
- “Sparkling Light Unicorn” by Stephen R.
- “Cat Collage” by Susan S.
- “City of Thrills” by David K.
- “Light Shines Through” by Joe C.
Mural Slated for 2019
When it comes to the arts in Austin, murals are supreme. The Arc of the Arts Program is currently working on acquiring a grant to work with two local artists who will create a mural outside the organization’s building. Stay tuned!
To learn more about The Arc of the Arts and how to get involved, visit the website below.
4902 Grover Ave. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Which art piece is your favorite?
Janet is a freelance writer. Most of her writing on film and local communities can be found on her website.