An art workshop to remember

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014


WHOEVER said that individuals with special needs are not capable of doing self-portraits and that art work should be left to the hands of professional artists was proven wrong during the art workshop called "heART for Healing: Art Psychosocial Intervention for Children With Autism" held at SM Lanang Premiere on March 22, 2014.

The art workshop was part of a three-day exhibit of Metrobank Foundation's "Art Made Public," which featured winning entries of Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Competitions.

Aside from giving lectures on basic visual arts for students, a group of painters and sculptors who were former winners of MADE volunteered to facilitate the art workshop for 12 teenagers with autism in Davao City.

According to the MADE Network of Winners (MADE NOW) team leader Salvador "Buddy" Ching, the Davao Project: heART for Healing was quite special, being the first art therapy for children with autism outside of Metro Manila.

The teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were very fortunate to meet Mr. Thomas Dacquioag of MADE NOW, Mr. Egay Fernandez of the National Commission for Culture and Arts and Mr. Jun Pamisa, a MADE NOW winner from Davao City. These professional artists patiently took turns in demonstrating art techniques to the teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

One of the highlights of the workshop was the interaction of teenagers and Dr. Grace Evangelista, a practicing clinical psychologist who arrived all the way from Manila.

The outcome of the entire activity was quite touching. No, the parents and the teachers around were not expecting to see perfect circles and other shapes, but what we saw were perfect pieces of artwork that were made from the innocent and unadulterated hearts of the children. What we heard was the laughter shared between the parents and their child as they were coloring their drawings and pasting cut-outs together. What we felt were the warmth of acceptance of the artists who believed in the special abilities of the children.

I myself was amazed at how Dr. Grace Evangelista was able to relate to each participant and draw out from them some responses when asked about their art work. Even the shy ones showed confidence by approaching Dr. Evangelista when their names were called. Somehow, I felt that all the participants understood what was going on and that there was no reason to be embarrassed or fearful. I know that deep inside, the parents around were also proud that their child was able to do an artwork without fear of being judged. At the end of the workshop, each participant gamely posed with their art work, and yes, even the shy ones.

I take note that the artists, psychologists, therapists and teachers who conceptualized Project: Heart for Healing are worth all the praises because the workshop teaches many lessons in life, such as unconditional love, acceptance, patience and inclusion, among others.

Thank you very much, Ms. Yvette Macayan of Metrobank Foundation, Mr. Noelle El Farol and the artists of MADE N.O.W., Dr. Grace Evangelista, SM anang Premiere, Autism Society Philippines, and ILLC Davao for this wonderful experience.

As Ms. Rinah Garrido, one of the parents, stated in her closing message, the Project: heART for Healing in Davao City definitely deserves a second round.

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Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 26, 2014.

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