I attended a special event one evening recently where some wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables decorated the room. Another guest introduced me to Judy Gittlesohn who had painted these pictures and told me that she works with individuals with many limits and challenges. Having worked with a similar population at one time, I was very interested to know more about what she does. Judy invited me to visit one of her classes and when I did, I saw wonderful things happening.
Art For Well Beings (AFWB) is an arts organization created by painter and entrepreneur, Judy Gittelsohn. It is designed to provide services to improve lives through artistic expression. A friend joined me and we visited a class and saw how this applies to each student.
Though the entire community is comprised of people with developmental disabilities, at risk youth, people recovering from illness or injury and typical people, the group we observed were adult individuals with developmental disabilities from a local day program, Hope Service, in Mountain View. Their experience is extraordinary because of the rare mix of people and the healing that occurs in the creative process.
It was interesting to see the class, which seemed very much like a traditional art class. A new theme is introduced each month. This month it is “A twig, a sprig, a baby and a fig”. Another was “Fruits, roots, nuts and seeds.” The students worked on their own boards, observing the twig on the table and painting what they saw and when finished whatever they wanted to. Toward the end of the class, the students came to the front of the room and told the group about their paintings. This offers valuable experiences in meaningful socialization. The students were poised and spoke loudly and clearly explanations were very appropriate.
This class is just one aspect of AFWB services. Additionally, services are delivered through hands-on workshops and classes on and off site, through the distribution of curriculum and products, “paint by puzzle” ™ for both isolated and mainstream populations, through exhibitions, demonstrations, leased art and through their interactive website.
AFWB is working on the creation of a Paint by Puzzle ™ kit and hopes to begin its distribution. “Paint by Puzzle”™ is a Group Art Project. The kit includes panels with outlined parts of a whole picture drawn on them. Each participant receives one outlined piece of the puzzle. When all the boards are painted, they are reassembled together into the whole picture. The outcome has been consistently magical. The production of the painting is painless as the participants are working on their own area. The experience for the students is one of independent creativity and being a part of a larger project. The individual paintings relate to each other and the artists relate to one another.
“Paint by Puzzle”™ is symbolic of the philosophy of AFWB. AFWB regards the individual as both discreet and essential. The puzzle is complete only with all the parts. Our target audiences for “paint by puzzle”™ are other art institutions, programs for people with special needs, at-risk and incarcerated youth and mainstream schools. The primary market for the AFWB interactive media and website are the home bound or isolated people that can be better reached electronically. Watch for AFWB on-line which will allow people to participate in collective art projects and educators to purchase curricula and materials.
Judy shared additional creative approaches to art. She rents the studio space out for birthday parties for children and sometimes for adults. She told us about a 70th birthday party where the birthday girl will have paintings from children and grandchildren to mark her special event.
Look for upcoming events: www.artforwellbeing.org
Art For Well Being
Artist or Director
2460 Park Blvd. #3
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Photos: Barbara Keer and website