by Erin McIndoo
Local artist, Kelly Meyer, received a Minnesota State Art Boards grant. With this grant she plans to offer free art classes to individuals with moderate to severe physical and/or intellectual disabilities. As well as an art lover, Meyer is a deaf/blind intervener for the St. Cloud school district and has had more than 20 years of experience working with people with disabilities.
“I wanted to find something I could do during the summers that let me pursue both of those loves,” Meyer said. “I tried to really think about what I might be able to bring to the community. I wanted to figure out a way to bring art to those folks who wouldn’t normally be able to participate because of simple barriers, such as there not being adaptive equipment available.”
As a deaf/blind intervener, Meyer works one-on-one with a student who is deaf and blind and helps her in any way she can. Before becoming an intervener, Meyer was a pediatric nurse who primarily worked with individuals and families who had disabilities as well. Both of these experiences helped Meyer to come up with her ideas for her future accessible classes.
“Working with my student, we had gone on some field trips and it was always really difficult for her when we could go places because so much is inaccessible. If we went to a visual arts place, she wasn’t really able to see very well, her primary mode of information in-take is through touch and that’s always a big no.” Meyer said. “I started to kind of get a glimpse of what it might be like to be a parent, and the amount of opportunities that suddenly become limited when your child can’t participate at the ability of a typical child.”
In her training to become an intervener, it was very eye-opening for Meyer to see how much body language, behavior or touch can play a role in communication. She also enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what someone needs and the great bond that comes with learning how to communicate with them.
“It’s always so amazing to see how joyful and happy those individuals can be. For you and I, it’s really easy to take all of the great blessings and things we have for granted,” Meyer said. “We look at someone else and we see the hand they’ve been dealt and we think ‘that poor child’ or ‘that poor person, it must be so hard to live that life’ and not to say that it’s not, but the kids and adults I’ve met are some of the most joyful folks and it’s contagious.”
Meyer plans to start her classes in early June in a couple different locations which will allow people with disabilities to fully participate and take in the class as a whole. There will be five classes at the Great River Regional Library in St. Cloud. She plans to do sensory story time and accessible arts and crafts days. There will also be a couple classes at Independent Lifestyles in Sauk Rapids. She is also actively looking for other locations to host these classes as her classes must be wrapped up by the end of the year.
“I’m hoping to give them a really fun and exciting opportunity to play and experiment, engage their senses and do something new,” Meyer said. “I think the arts bring so much into everybody’s lives. Being able to create and make something and really use our imagination is a really great internal filler. It really helps in building up someone’s self confidence and just the view they hold of themselves to make something and show other people is really uplifting.”
Any questions or concerns can be directed toward firstname.lastname@example.org.