In March, KickstART Farmington launched a new program at the KickstART Gallery & Shop exhibiting the work of students from the Farmington/Hills community. This initiative is coordinated by Katy Baracco in collaboration with the art teachers in our schools.
The first two months have been focused on showcasing the artwork of students from Visions Unlimited and Lisa Wiltrakis, a special education teacher and art teacher at the school answered some questions for us about their program.
Tell us about the students at Visions Unlimited and the services you provide to them.
Visions Unlimited is an Adult Transition program operated by Farmington Public Schools. Visions serves adults ages 18 through 26 years of age who have physical and/or developmental disabilities and students on the autism spectrum. Students are assigned to Visions Unlimited through the special education Individualized Educational Planning Team (IEPT) process and are residents of Farmington and Farmington Hills. The Visions staff is dedicated to ensuring that each student reaches their potential as a contributing citizen, productive worker, and community participant. Each student has individual goals for improving independent living and employability skills. Through classroom and community-based instruction, these goals are achieved.
Visions students participate in a variety of programs including Bountiful Backpacks (provides food to students in Title 1 schools) PEAC (Programs to Educate all Cyclists), Smart Bus training, and Book Club with the local Farmington Public Library. These programs offer exposure for community outreach and teach strategies for independent living. Daily enrichment classes are part of the Visions Unlimited curriculum. These classes focus on leisure activities and physical fitness. Current enrichment classes include Fitness, Yoga, Cardio Drumming, Fine Arts, Sports, Cooperative Games and Music. Students look forward to these classes which occur during the last hour of the school day. All the Visions students participate in work-based learning both on campus and in the community. Students learn and practice Universal Work Skills. These skills are very important in attaining and maintaining a job. Some of the on-campus work-based learning jobs include Food Prep, Visions Vocations, MicroEnterprise and Bountiful Backpacks. Off campus worksites include Busch’s grocery store, Costick Center, Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Library, Holiday Inn Hotel, the Farmington Hawk Center, Holy Family Church, and Central Office/Ten Mile. All Visions students participate in the PAES/Micro-Enterprise class. PAES (Practical Assessment Exploration System) PAES is a hands-on program that has multi-steps. Students practice universal work skills.
The students learn:
•Entry level skills in multiple career/work areas
•Follow work procedures
•Appropriate work behaviors
•Problem solving skills
Our Production shop is a Micro-Enterprise operation, set up to provide the students with work-related experiences. This environment exposes students to real-life work situations. They learn how to follow multi-step directions, build stamina, increase dexterity, problem-solve, track finances, and so much more. We are committed to upcycle, recycle, and reuse whenever we can.
Art offers a creative (and enjoyable) way to communicate without restrictions, without worries of being judged as there is no such thing as failing when you create art.
What kinds of artistic opportunities do you engage the students with?
Every student gets to choose an enrichment activity including music, art, fitness, technology, yoga, cooperative games, and cardio drumming. In our Art class at Visions, the students learn about various famous artists and their techniques and what inspired them. They learn about the basic elements of art and create individual artwork using a variety of mixed media based on the theme of the project. Themes have included impressionism, mosaicism, pop art, surrealism, pointillism, and two-dimensional art to name a few.
In the Visions Microenterprise Shop students assist in the creation of projects that include designing and producing greeting cards. This is a multi-step project that includes mixing colors and other materials to create papier fait – which is their own paper. Their ideas and artistic eye become products to sell. As a staff we try to use other students to critique and question ideas, so they are collaborating with minimal staff input.
Why do you find it important for the students to engage with art?
Art promotes freedom of creative expression, which helps students to relax and think differently. Art offers an opportunity for self-expression. Art can be a way to communicate for our young adults who find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally. Art offers a creative (and enjoyable) way to communicate without restrictions, without worries of being judged as there is no such thing as failing when you create art. This process gives them a sense of accomplishment and builds their self-confidence. Art is very calming and uninhibiting, and there is no “wrong” when it comes to art. We get to see a side of our students that we normally may not never have ever known existed. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life”
How can people learn more about your programs and support your work?
People can learn more about Visions Unlimited by going to the Farmington Public Schools website: farmington.k12.mi.us/vis.
Art by students at Visions Unlimited will be on display through April and art by students from the community will continue to be exhibited through the year.
This exhibition (and those to follow) was made possible by Benjamin R. Sweeney who left a legacy of love, support, and awareness, a man who had a passion for life and a deep love for family. Ben took great pride in watching his grandson Christopher thrive in the SXI program at Visions Unlimited.
Never being able to meet future students in this program, Ben wanted others to have the ability to thrive the way his grandson did.
Part of Ben’s legacy is to show what these SXI individuals “CAN” do and share their successes with you.