VSA of Grand Rapids is local branch of a non-profit group connecting those with disabilities to the power of art. The groups says children with disabilites in Kent County have a 60% higher chance of dropping out of school, and they’re at a higher risk of being unemployed, or even ending up in jail – a startling statistic they’re hoping to change.
“We serve 6000 children, youth, and adults through a variety of art programs: music, dance, drama and the visual arts,” says Executive Director, Michele Suchovsky.
And Elaine Hoogeboom – who uses art as therapy after suffering a traumatic brain injury - painted life-like portraits of Michigan soldiers who died in wars overseas. She plans to give the paintings to the families after ArtPrize.
There’s always an assumption that a person with a disability can’t do something,” says Suchovsky. “What we see in the arts is when you give somebody the tools, they can do amazing creative things.”
Randall Gornowich is an art teacher at VSA, he says when he walks into a classroom he doesn’t see people with disabilities, but rather students ready to blossom. “When I work with them I just see the magic of possibility. It seems like they’re liberated when they’re creating, they forget about anything that might be holding them back.”
The classes also help kids and adults build self-confidence, something he notices is even more achievable in the digital age.
“It seems like a blank piece of paper will scare someone often,” Gornowich explains. “Where as a camera … there’s a delete button, (the students are) not worried about what isn’t going to work and what is.”
No worries and endless possibilities, especially in their new home on the corner of Leonard Street NW and Monroe Ave NW in Grand Rapids.
“We are thrilled to be in our new space,” smiles Suchovsky.
VSA’s grand opening is Friday, August 12, from noon-4pm, and is open to the public. Guests can enjoy activities like face-painting, silent auctions, and even a glee club performance.