June 4, 2004
Exhibit Showcases CUA Education Research Project
Whimsical Sculptures Reflect Value of Arts Instruction for Special-Needs Students
Catholic University — a participant in the 2004 International VSA arts Festival, which showcases visual and performing art by people with disabilities from around the world — is hosting an exhibit of artwork by children with special needs.
CUA Project Director Carol Brown with one of the VSA arts exhibit entries on display through July 4.
The exhibit, titled “Our City,” grew out of the Interdisciplinary VSA arts Project at CUA, which was designed to show how arts instruction can enhance the literacy of special-needs students. The installation at Salve Regina Hall kicks off with a reception there from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. June 4. The exhibit runs through July 4.
Washington, D.C.-based VSA arts — an international nonprofit organization that creates learning opportunities through the arts for people with disabilities — is hosting the festival, which runs from June 9 through 12 at locations around the District. Supported by VSA arts, the project involved a team of CUA professors from the departments of art, drama and education and the schools of music and architecture and planning.
The exhibit involved CUA students and faculty; the Ivymount School for special-education students in Rockville, Md.; and the Kreeger Museum of Washington, D.C. Mary A. Frank, a sculptor and visiting instructor of art, proposed the installation now on display at the university art gallery.
For the exhibit, five Ivymount students with a range of disabilities that include autism and deafness worked with CUA students and faculty and Kreeger staff members to craft nine painted Styrofoam sculptures based on a painting by French artist Jean Dubuffet. The painting, titled “L’Eau dans le Gaz,” is part of the Kreeger collection. Another group of CUA students created a video chronicling the project, which is also part of the exhibit.
Along with the whimsical pieces, painted in bright, primary colors and scattered around a room at the gallery, are preliminary sketches by the Ivymount students. Over the course of the project, Ivymount students talked and wrote about the work they were doing, says Carole Brown, CUA project director and research associate professor.
“Studies have shown that reading and literacy are facilitated by arts activities that help students break the phonetic code and promote understanding of the story line,” says Brown. “In particular, drama and visual arts activities promote narrative storytelling, which enhances literacy.”
Data gathered during the CUA project will bolster efforts by VSA arts to set new standards for teacher preparation nationwide by aligning arts education standards with special education standards.
“The CUA research is important because it helps teachers recognize how effective arts instruction can be, especially with special education students,” says James E. Modrick, VSA arts’ vice president for affiliate and education services. In addition, the exposure of CUA students to arts instruction is “an invaluable part of their education,” Modrick says.
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