Sep 212009
Authors: Katelyn McNamara

For the first time in its history, the CSU Art Department’s Artistic Abilities program, which partners art students with developmentally and physically challenged adults, will operate as a non-profit this semester.

Art professor and program coordinator Natalie Barnes said the non-profit status is important because it makes all donations to Artistic Abilities tax-deductible and helps to fund a program that meets a need of the disabled community. Through its non-profit status, which it achieved in June, she said the program could become a model for service learning at CSU.

Artistic Abilities was created four years ago to fill what Barnes called “a hole that was not being filled.”

Students enrolled in CSU’s Concepts in Art Education course help adults from the local disabled community express their creativity by talking the artists through their ideas and providing them with space and material they wouldn’t otherwise have.

The course is open only to art education majors, but Barnes said she would love to see the program expand and always welcomes volunteers. She said it has proven to be much more than just normal coursework.

“Students leave here knowing that they can teach anyone within the population,” Barnes said. “Students are no longer intimidated, and they are confident when they walk out of here.”

The classes, which run in five weeks sessions, fill up to full capacity with artists ranging in age from 13 to 60 years old.

In the past, projects included hand-painted scarves, masks, painting and clay, to name a few. Barnes said she remembered how one blind artist was captivated by clay and said all artists have their own niche.

“Many of them come in here with a definite artistic vision,” Barnes said.

Barnes said there is, as of yet, no set start-date this semester for the program, which is a unit the Concepts in Art Education class.

Staff writer Katelyn McNamara can be reached at

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