Growth Through Art Offers Hope

Colleen Stein

Colleen Stein

Art, regardless of message or media, is one of the most honest forms of human expression. For these reasons, the South Dakota Art Museum has designed a program called Growth Through Art.

Grow Through Art allows disabled individuals to participate in artistic endeavors. It gives them the opportunity to express ideas and imagination that often becomes stifled behind the confines of a handicap.

An exhibit of the artwork will be displayed on Sunday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. The pieces are also put up for sale with 75 percent of the proceeds going to the artist and 25 percent back into the program to purchase art supplies for the following semester.

Museum director and founder of the program, Lynn Verschoor, has high expectations for her current batch of ten artists.

“Working with these people is very rewarding,” Verschoor says. “My motives for this program are purely selfish. I simply love seeing the excitement in the students faces while they are working.”

Upon founding the program in 2001, Verschoor has collaborated with Terrell Spence, a director from ADVANCE (an assisted care facility in Brookings). Spence recommends participants that he feels are most inclined to benefit from the program.

Part of the program’s success stems from the generous funding and support received from Altrusa International, Inc. Altrusa is known for assisting other local programs with similar humanitarian goals like the Brookings Habitat For Humanity and Domestic Abuse Shelter.

The current fall workshop began September 2 and will run until October 7. Class is held each Tuesday and lasts from 5:30 to 6:30 with a half-hour of clean up afterwards. During this hour, the artists meet with Verschoor to create artwork using several different mediums. Each artist is presented with a wide variety for use: molding clay, weaving materials, acrylic paints, colored pencils or paper and glue for constructing collages.

“We try to remain sensitive to each individual’s interests. Once they find a medium they enjoy using, its wonderful to see them just go with it and create these wonderful art pieces.” Verschoor said.

While Verschoor has had experience working in a similar program in Montana, she appreciates the support of others involved and encourages students of all majors to participate in the weekly workshop that is held each semester.

Aside from his work/study tasks at the museum, SDSU Junior art major Brad Thiele, enjoys his first year helping with the workshop.

“Its a great experience, especially for people who haven’t had a chance working with and around disabled people,” Theile said. “You get a chance to see these people overcome their limitations and grow creatively as artists.”

Volunteers Ardis Johnson of Altrusa and Brookings High School student Zach Ervin, also lend their time in assisting the beginning artists to create local masterpieces. One of the program’s big success stories is with Brookings resident Bill Lufkin. While in the workshop, Lufkin enjoyed working with acrylic paints so much that he went on to set up his own painting studio within his home. He recently took several of his pieces to a craft show in the Brookings Mall where he sold 40 paintings.

Growth Through Art is a program designed to lure out hidden talents by using positive support and supplying the proper materials. The program serves as a gateway for disabled participants to express themselves through artistic endeavors.

For more information on the upcoming art exhibit or volunteering to help with the Growth Through Art program, contact Lynn Verschoor at 688-4279.