In 2011, Kitty Schuhard and I designed and delivered some very experimental workshops to an after-school club for teenagers with complex special needs.
We had 6 sessions, each one exploring one of the 5 senses: Touch, Taste, Smell, Sound and Sight- and the 6th session would be suggested by the group of young people themselves.
We focused on the experiential: An exploration of what can be felt and learned through the process of the activities, rather than working towards making competed, tangible pieces of art. In this way, we allowed each individual group member to connect in their own way and time.
A lot of the activities were about Trust: giving and receiving, gauging responses of self and others, and learning the art of relaxation. They so enjoyed the relaxation and meditation techniques shared at the close of each session that they voted for “a chill-out party” to be the 6th and final workshop.
Each workshop was a vibrant, playful collision of art, science, therapy and play and an exploration and celebration of ourselves. We wanted the group to be stimulated, to interact, engage, relax and have fun.
We made Barefoot walks, sound mobiles and sound recordings, an improvised shadow-puppet show, clay sculptures, wore blind-folds, mixed herbs for our baths, made (non-alchoholic) healthy cocktails , U.V and aromatherapy paintings – and lots of other things.
We received a glowing testimonial from one of the groups’ regular staff:
“We would like to congratulate Jill and Kitty for their inspiring and rewarding workshops……..they have provided an excellent approach of how to address the particular necessities of each member…enabling them to interact and to communicate with us….., revealing changes in behavior and helping to be calm….. a fantastic opportunity to see the success of such workshops”
I recently gave a talk At the Art in the Park studio about the project to students from Birkbeck College and I have been encouraged to write a Research Paper which I am currently doing. I would love to be able to further develop this kind of work with Kitty. We both feel that we can progress far with our ideas. Everybody got so much from this project.