If anything has the power to draw people together and highlight our shared humanity, it’s the creation of art.
Jennifer Compau Boyd, instructor of art at the Central Valley School District, witnesses the potential of art every day through her work as the director of Spark, an art partnership program that integrates recently graduated special needs students with local high school students.
The program aims to foster meaningful relationships and support experiences that pave a way for unlimited possibilities of involvement and employment in the community. Students are a part of School to Life at Barker High School, an initiative that seeks to provide students with disabilities authentic work and life skills, including art and community service. Although the program centers on art, Boyd says that what is really important are the friendships that form around it.
“We want to create good relationships with people with abilities and disabilities,” Compau Boyd stresses.
She shares the story of a particular student with autism, Jonathan Finck, whose involvement in her art class helped draw students from Barker High School into the program.
“Students would say to me, 'I want to paint with Jonathan,'” she says.
It’s no surprise that students would be drawn to creating art alongside of Finck as he skillfully incorporates rhythms and sounds into his work. Boyd says, “it’s the biggest mess, but it’s such a blast.
Finck is just one of five students whose art will be on display this month during a special exhibit at the Downtown Spokane Public Library.
“Each artist has created an original body of work,” Compau Boyd explains, and “the work itself is really beautiful.” Although the artists range from being blind, non-verbal, or autistic, their abilities far outweigh their disabilities, and their art shows that. Compau Boyd not only hopes to display the incredible work of her students, but more importantly to spark awareness and conversation around increased inclusion and opportunities for people with disabilities.
She explains that many people with special needs are extremely marginalized in our community and we have a real need for more diverse opportunities for them. Compau Boyd hopes that through the exhibit people will be able to see how the Spark program seeks to do this, and raise awareness to further inclusion for these uniquely talented individuals.
The Downtown Spokane Public Library hosts the opening of the exhibit on Friday, Nov. 6 from 4 to 8 pm. The exhibition is set to run through November 27 during regular library hours.