Artwork by local residents will be featured through May 26 in the upstairs gallery at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center.

The display, “From A to X: Art creation to eXhibit,” showcases the work of a new inclusive class comprised of artists, some with intellectual or developmental disabilities, from the community.

The art display kicked off with an opening reception Thursday at the center, 38 W. Pomfret St., Carlisle. The event was hosted by the Arc of Cumberland & Perry Counties and the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, and catered by the Sassy Gourmet from CPARC.

According to Trisha Grace, CPARC director of development, the class was funded through a grant designed “to promote inclusion within communities … (allowing) them to experience an art class and to network with folks from the community.”

She said the six-week class met once each week. Participants worked on projects that ranged from ceramics to paintings and drawings.

The instructor was local artist Tom Oakes.

CPARC staff member Valbona Hada, who was among the participants, said there were about 14 people in the class. After a topic was introduced by the instructor, students worked individually to create artwork before moving on as a class to a new topic.

“The main point was that it introduced ways to use art for self-expression,” Hada said.

“I was really excited because I had done a very important project in college where I could pick a certain topic and write about it, and I wrote a piece about stress and art, and how art is used as a way of coping with stress.

“For individuals with intellectual disability, a lot cannot talk and use their verbal communications, and one way they can express themselves is through art. They can do art at home or a day care center, but when you provide a class with an instructor, it introduces an opportunity for a new kind learning. They’re included in the community. … It feels like you belong in the community, and that’s the way it should be for everyone,” Hada said.

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Grace said that was what made the program a success.

“I think what makes this project special is promoting inclusion. … They’re all working on the same project at different paces. Some of the folks in the class had IDD. Some of them were CPARC folks; others were not. Some people in the class did not have any disability.

“I definitely think this was a success. We got really good feedback, and the instructor really enjoyed working with our participants and the community.”

Grace said the opening reception is also something the artists look forward to.

“They’ll have the opportunity to showcase their work, to walk up to the wall and say, ‘That’s mine,’” she said. “It creates a space in the community where they have the chance to express themselves.”

Cathy Stone, gallery coordinator at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, agreed. She said the program is “something we certainly hope to continue.”

Stone said the center will look for additional funding opportunities and hopes to offer several sessions per year.

“The participants had a great time,” she said. “It was so much fun to see them come in and go through the gallery and see what they were going to do that day. We had a great instructor.”

The “From A to X: Art creation to eXhibit” project is supported by the Arts for All partnership between the Cultural Enrichment Fund and the Greater Harrisburg Foundation, a regional foundation of the Foundation For Enhancing Communities.

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