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Creative Access Artists

Idaho Parents Unlimited

Our 2018-2019 Creative Access Artist in Residence program provided twenty residencies for students with special needs across Idaho in community centers and public schools. Our dedicated teaching artists administered innovative and accessible arts experiences for students who have disabilities and significant health care issues. Residencies content included media arts in graphic design and photography, as well as performing arts in contemporary dance and ballet. Residencies in literary arts showcased storytelling, poetry and descriptive writing, and visual arts curriculum produced content in printmaking, painting and drawing. Our classes were specially designed to meet the needs of students with wide variety of diagnosis, to ensure that children who would not otherwise be able to participate in the arts are included. Our program served students in preschool through extended high school with a range of abilities and disabilities.  All residencies were linked to Idaho State Standards for Arts and Humanities; individual residencies were also linked to grade requirements for core subjects and IEP goals. Imagination, investigation, construction and reflection are part of every residency, providing the framework for artistic literacy and creative practices in accordance with National Core Art Standards.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do we use art to articulate and express ideas, experiences, observations and feelings?

We use art to communicate by engaging students with meaningful arts curriculum, building artistic skills and then infusing the projects with a personal point of view. The process employs 21st Century Skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking for students to express themselves and demonstrate learning through the arts. By participating in arts learning students discover what interests them, what challenges them and what they may have a talent for. The opportunity to reflect on experiences allows students the chance to gain insights into new personal and cultural understandings. Our arts learning bolsters literacy skills when students gain knowledge of how to assemble, analyze and utilize information and technology. In today’s world visual communication and sound transmission comprise nearly every aspect of our daily reality. When students are able to make sense of these messages they are better equipped to make decisions and use their own pathways of communication. The arts are an integral part our cultural identity, from simple logos to complex theater productions we are told who we are through sounds, images and stories. Our arts programming enables students convey their own messages and viewpoints. We use the arts in modern society to communicate everything from our personal aesthetic, to our political messages, and articulate the narrative arc of our cultural stories. Empowering students to find their own voice, analyze Information and engage in creative thinking fosters global perspective and infuses their knowledge with connective thinking.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Our central focus on providing arts learning for students with disabilities, in educational settings that are accessible and inclusive, yielded a wide array of responses. This year’s residencies included media, visual, literary and performing arts. Students in our arts programming responded with enthusiasm about their art education sessions and participated to the best of their ability. Documented increases in engagement with arts learning by students was present in expanded vocabulary, social interaction and arts fluency. Students demonstrated knowledge and understanding by producing and performing in residency showcase events. Idaho core standards were addressed for Arts and Humanities, interdisciplinary, in all residencies, as follows:

Goal 2.2- Engage in discussions about arts and humanities issues

Goal 3.2- Communicate in the humanities discipline through the application knowledge and skills

Goal 3.3 -Communicate in the humanities discipline through creative expression

Students in visual arts residences also addressed Idaho State Content Standards in English Language Arts for Speaking and Listening (K-2 SL.1.5) Comprehension and Collaboration “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”

Students in our performing arts residencies responded to Standard 2: Movement Knowledge Goal 2.1: “The physically literate individual demonstrates understanding of
concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics related to movement and to
the performance of physical activities.” (K-2.PE.2.1.2) “Identify and apply critical cues and concepts of body, space, effort, time, and relationships that vary the quality of movement.”


Youth with disabilities and special health care needs consistently fall outside the parameters of societies programs due to various limitations associated with their diagnosis. The impact of our program addresses the question of opportunity, accessibility and social equity. Our program impacts the lives of students by meeting them where they are both geographically and developmentally. The impact of our program showed improvements in student motivation, verbal skills, spelling scores, mathematical and rhythmic skills, motor skills, artistic skills and social skills. Students gain confidence in their abilities, explore interests, and discover personal voice when engaged in our arts residencies. Students gained understanding of their own unique creative process and demonstrated learning and artistic outcomes while working with our teaching artists in residencies. Students surprised everyone with their capacity for learning and skill building while exploring core subjects linked through arts integrated curriculum. Our inclusive residencies alter and expand perceptions of people with disabilities. The arts are a playing field where learning and expression can thrive without the constraints of institutionalized schooling. Disability and the arts have a long history of being intertwined and producing some of the most interesting and prolific art in history. Our program offers and engages young minds in the world of possibilities and impacts both personal and societal norms in the process.


“Inclusion is important because through our diversity we certainly add to our creativity. If you don’t have a diverse classroom or a diverse world, you don’t have the same creative levels, so our strength lies in our diversity.” Gretchen Walsh M.S. Ed. Academic Support Center at Notre Dame College. “Inclusion is the integration of students of all abilities and disabilities in educational and community environments, addressing the needs of every student while respecting and learning from differences.”

Diversity conversations often of overlook neurological or physical diversity in favor of cultural diversity, leaving many students unable to effectively engage in curriculum. We remove barriers to participation for students who need special equipment or other accommodations. We do this by using adaptive equipment, universal design for learning techniques and meeting students were they are at, be it in schools, detention centers or community settings. Our program removes barriers to learning for students due to prejudge, fear or ignorance about disability. Empowering students with the tools and knowledge to partake in their own education and make decision’s for themselves is the pathway to personal independence. Today one in five students has a disability or special health care need. Our mandate as the State Organization on Arts and Disability is to ensure these students are engaged, rather than overlooked. Students with disabilities must be represented in both education and in society for the benefit of everyone. The arts is a vehicle which facilities this growth due to its dynamic and flexible nature. Our program continues to provide quality arts education to Idaho’s underserved and at risk youth just as we have for over two decades.