Art to Connect Different Worlds

Expressive Outcomes returns to Howland Library

By Alison Rooney

“Art is best for me. Makes me calm down. When I make a mistake I get frustrated by, it helps me more to keep on going, going. The first time when you do art you’re like, ‘I don’t like it.’ But don’t quit; just keep it up. I hope people feel excited when they buy my art.”

So says Edwin, an artist with autism, whose work appeared in a previous Expressive Outcome art exhibit. (Participants are identified solely by their first names.)

Beacon’s Howland Library, among other institutions and galleries, is again showcasing art by adult clients in residency and daytime programs at the Anderson Center for Autism, in Staatsburg. The display, featuring 20 to 30 of their works, is slated to open on July 14, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

Expressive Outcomes artist Bradley stands next to his work.

Expressive Outcomes was established in 2004 at the Anderson Center, which offers services to approximately 124 residents, most of whom live in group housing in Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties. Residents come from all over New York state; a few come from other states or even other countries. A similar number of non-residents also participate in the center’s activities and therapies.

Its popularity proven, the visual art program continues to grow and the content has become more diverse in terms of media, textures, techniques and skill levels.

Some of the pieces are incorporated into exhibits held throughout the year in galleries in Chelsea in New York City and Rhinebeck, and at Poughkeepsie’s Mill Street Loft and The Heritage Center.

An Expressive Outcomes artist created this piece for an earlier exhibit.

Expressive Outcomes’ offerings also include other disciplines, such as spoken word and the performing arts. Sometimes the courage and inspiration for trying those mediums comes from the confidence-boosting experiences artists first have with the visual arts. The opportunities introduce residents and non-residents to the full array of activities available, taking into account their widely varying non-verbal to highly verbal capabilities and allowing them to choose whatever interests them.

At the exhibit opening, artists willing to share personal insights intend to discuss their inspiration and techniques and the ideas surrounding their art. Every work is for sale, unless the artist wishes to keep it.

So far, Expressive Outcomes has come to the Howland Library four times. “We enjoy having their bright and expressive artwork at the library every summer,” says Michelle Rivas, who handles Howland’s community art programs. “I love meeting the artists.” In fact, the relationship with the Anderson Center led her to shift the focus of the library’s Community Art Program from exhibiting individual artists to partnering with community groups.

Rivas particularly enjoys the opening receptions because of the participation of the artists and their families. “While some of the artists are shy and some are non-verbal, there are a couple” who “are very outgoing and charming and proud of their work. They greet the visitors and tell them about their pieces,” she explains.

Another piece from Expressive Outcomes

As noted on the Anderson Center’s website, the Expressive Outcomes program “connects the artists with other artists, arts organizations, and the broader community, widening our individuals’ opportunities to our adults.”

The Anderson Center’s core philosophy is that “all people deserve to live a life of quality” and its day and residential programs are designed to “promote each individual’s attainment of independence and a productive life full of enriching experiences.” To achieve that goal, it provides educational, social and vocational activities, coordinated with an individual’s home environment. Anderson Center programs are funded and/or licensed and certified by the New York State Education Department, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Children and Family Services.

Expressive Outcomes runs through Aug. 4 at the Howland Library, 313 Main St., Beacon.

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