Visitors may be unaware of a special program the Dallas Museum of Art provides for adults with developmental disabilities. For the past five years, the Museum has offered a private program for The Arc of Dallas. Clients visit the Museum monthly and participate in a gallery tour and studio art-making activity. Some clients have participated for all five years, and we have a group of regular attendees. Because of their ongoing attendance, many participants feel comfortable with the Museum’s staff and in the galleries.
This past month we were joined by Susan Morgan, Senior Manager of Therapeutic Horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. We discussed the importance of how nature is depicted in Japanese art, particularly the lotus flower. Clients enjoyed learning the symbolism of different plants from Sharon. Later, they walked around the Asian galleries looking for lotus flowers in the art. Back in the studio, clients created their own Zen rock gardens.
According to their website, The Arc of Dallas “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.” The DMA is proud to include this audience in our programming. Sherry Wacasey, Executive Director for The Arc of Dallas, believes disability does not always affect creativity, and the DMA program meets the goals to empower this population. She argues that art is another form of communication and it can touch people who in other ways cannot communicate—art can close the gap.
I worked with this program in the fall of 2012 for my master’s thesis from the University of North Texas. One of my favorite aspects of working with The Arc of Dallas clients is observing the personal connections they make to the artworks. For example, when we toured the exhibition The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico, during the sketching portion one client identified with a ceramic figure because one arm was longer than the other, a trait that mirrored her own proportions.
Our staff enjoys The Arc of Dallas’s monthly visits and always appreciates their many hugs at the program’s conclusion. We visit different galleries every month, and next month’s visit to the exhibition Chagall: Beyond Color is certain to be a good one.
Holly York is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Programs at the DMA.