Arts for All: Guild Seeks To Engage Special Needs Community

February 17, 2018
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Vicky Culver and David Levy have helped the Guild of Creative Arts in Shrewsbury serve a greater good by instituting The Docent Program for special needs groups. Photo by Chris Rotolo

By Chris Rotolo |

SHREWSBURY – Can we do more to impact the community in a positive way?

This is the question David Levy posed when he accepted the role of president at the Guild of Creative Arts (GCA), as he considered how the 58-year-old nonprofit artist cooperative at 620 Broad St. could influence and extend its reach.

For Levy, the GCA was more than a celebrated showroom or heralded hub of creativity for local artists developing ideas.

The facility presented Levy a platform, and what’s more, an opportunity, to make the artistic experience accessible to all who sought it, a notion that led him to establish The Docent Program.

“Our mission at the Guild is to advance excellence in the visual arts, but our vision is to reach out to everyone in our community, especially the underserved populace, including those with disabilities, and ignite or rekindle their love of art,” Levy said on Tuesday, while prepping the GCA’s Feb. 11 reception for its current Exhibiting and Associate Show, an exhibition that runs until Feb. 27 and features the work of the cooperative’s most prominent artists.

According to Levy, The Docent Program, which focuses on the observation of art pieces and emphasizes analysis, evaluation and higher-order thinking skills, caters to the developmental and cognitive needs of elementary school-aged students, as well as children and adults with special needs and senior citizens with cognitive or physical disabilities.

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Since founding The Docent Program in 2013, Levy has witnessed firsthand the benefits such an offering can provide to the surrounding special needs community, which is why he finds it troubling that funding for the arts has come under fire in recent years.

“Art is for everyone and is something that enriches lives,” said Levy, a former college professor of art history, as well as an instructor of gifted and talented students and an enrichment teacher for students with special needs.

“There are so many reasons why it’s worthwhile, and for kids especially, it shows that art activities stimulate various parts of their developing brain, which positively impacts other subject areas and aspects of their lives,” said Levy. “The arts are something worth fighting for.”

While he remains steadfast in his fight for the preservation of arts education, Levy’s Docent Program continues to offer insight to those who wish to appreciate and interpret art pieces from the perspective of an artist, helping viewers gain a greater understanding of the creatives’ methods and what they hope to accomplish stylistically and affectively.

“It was a goal of mine to help transform this into something more than a place to view art and take classes,” Levy said. “We wanted The Guild to be a community resource that could reach out and educate everyone. And this program is helping us do that.”


This article was first published in the Feb. 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

 

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