A unique project in public education isn’t just creating beautiful works of art, it’s also creating new friendships.
The Hands & HeART project is a new collaboration with Northwest Elementary, The Lyle Torrant Center and the Jackson School of the Arts. More than 30 fifth graders come to Lyle Torrant once a month and spend about an hour creating art with special needs students.
Amy Fracker, assistant director of the Jackson School of the Arts, says the three met over the summer to discuss ideas of working together. Fracker says the project was inspired by her deceased son, who had special needs and attended the Torrant Center. “This project was his legacy”, says Fracker.
“This project is already a highlight of my teaching career”, says Jessica Crandall, art instructor at Northwest Elementary. “Seeing my students interact with their friends from Torrant and not just what they can help give to the Torrant kids, but what they come home with, is incredible.”
Nearly three dozen students were selected for the project, after filling out a form telling their teacher why they wanted to be a part of it. They also spent time learning about how to relate with children with special needs. For the students at Lyle Torrant, it’s been a great opportunity for them to engage with their peers in a fun, creative way.
“Seeing our students have an interaction with typically-developing peers is just heartwarming”, says Amy Rogers, Principal at Lyle Torrant. “The students are doing a real nice job interacting with the kids – our kids at Torrant are just lighting up. That’s what this is all about, creating art together as community members and spreading the love.”
The students work on various mediums each time they meet. During the November meet-up, they designed a piece using crayons and watercolors. The art will go on display during a public art show in the spring.