Define Inclusive?

“What makes your studio ALL INCLUSIVE"?” was the question that I was asked last week. As I was giving my answer, it made me realize what a powerful message we are sharing and I felt the need to write about it today.

My studio is inclusive because it not only welcomes ALL ages and ALL abilities . . . the business woman running the studio along with her art assistants all have a disability (or challenge as I like to call it.)

I am a 41 year old, single, short statured woman who has Osteogenisus Imperfecta. I use a wheelchair to get around and I drive a mini van that has adapted hand controls and an automatic lift. I teach children of ALL ABILITIES and ALL AGES (as young as 3 and as old as 97) that ART IS GOOD FOR YOU. I don't often think of myself as having a “disability”, it has just become a normal part of who I am. (I have my mother to thank for that!)

I have two amazing helpers at my studio on a regular basis. Emma Slezak is a 23 year old young woman whose challenge is Down Syndrome. She is a graduate of the BearCat Best Program at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. EMMA brings joy, laughter and happiness to everyone she meets. Katie Korzak is a 36 year old young woman whose challenge is mild spastic cerebral palsy with left sided damage and is non-verbal. She uses a device called a DYNAVOX to communicate. Her smile is infectious.

The way Katie is able to instruct my students on what to do and help them do it is AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL.. The students are in ‘awe’ by Katie’s Dynavox and think it is rather cool to be able to communicate like that. Katie has blossomed into a beautiful artist over the past year and a half since she has been at the studio. She never imagined she would turn into an artist as well as an art assistant!

Emma just makes my day brighter. She has this way of no matter what your mood is…she will make you laugh. She will make you smile and appreciate life. Emma LOVES creating art and would create all day 24/7 if she could! She is my helper in setting everything up, helping me keep the studio organized, and helping me during class as well.

Both are two beautiful examples of how we do not let our DISABILITIES interfere with our ABILITIES.

When my students are taking classes at my studio, they get the experience of seeing that ART is the piece that connects us all. When we are creating, we are all one. We accept each other, love each other, and are kind and helpful to one another.

I love mentoring those that have challenges and helping them see that they CAN do it! They see themselves as different, I see them as unique. I try so hard in helping them embrace their differences and showing them all you need is love.

So as you can see, no matter what type of class I have it will ALWAYS be inclusive. We set a beautiful example of INCLUSIVENESS. The key is to not be afraid to be YOU! Mister Rogers photograph is in my studio and everytime I look at it I can hear him say “I like you just the way you are!”

Remember, Love who you are, there’s only ONE YOU! Now go create some art!

Miss EMMA and her happy scarecrow

Miss EMMA and her happy scarecrow

Miss KATIE and her amazing fall themed pickup truck!

Miss KATIE and her amazing fall themed pickup truck!

My Clelian Crew getting into the Halloween Spirit!

My Clelian Crew getting into the Halloween Spirit!