Art Helps Students with Behavior Disorders

Thirteen students at the Watson Institute’s Friendship Academy, a special education school serving students with behavior disorders and emotional challenges, were recently given the opportunity to express their hopes and dreams for the future through an art project. Working in collaboration with Sean Beauford, the Art Curator at Studio AM in Garfield, the students were challenged to express themselves through their artwork for an exhibition titled, “Ambition”.

The project developed after a chance meeting between Sean and Alyse Alexander, a classroom therapist at Friendship Academy. Sean was inspired when he heard about the students who attend Friendship, many of whom face serious emotional and behavioral challenges. “Ambition” is a way for the students to shine, expressing their aspirations through their creativity.

“I think everyone has the right to dream, regardless of their circumstance, and I believe everyone has the right to express themselves artistically,” said Sean Beauford, Art Curator at Studio A.M. and student mentor for the art project.

Special Education Services for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges

The students have been working over the past several months on their individual projects during art class with Hannah Timm and Laura Fleming, the art instructor and art therapist respectively, at Friendship Academy. Hannah and Laura were thrilled to incorporate this project into the students’ education, recognizing the importance of creative activities in special education classrooms.

“This entire process, and especially Sean’s presence, has been a meaningful experience for this group of students. This opportunity not only recognizes their artwork, but it recognizes and validates their dreams as well,” said Hannah Timm, art instructor at Friendship Academy.

Friendship Academy student artwork

The students’ art exhibition will be displayed at Local 412 in Garfield, opening on July 1st during Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn, and will remain on display in the Gallery throughout the entire month of July.

“Art is not just something reserved for professionals to be appraised and judged. Art is a vehicle for expression, and something for us to learn from, and gain a better understanding of each other.”

To learn more about how the Watson Institute’s special education teachers incorporate art and creative activities into their classrooms, check out our special education resources.