Art Project Helps Students with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges

Hannah Timm, the art teacher at Friendship Academy, is always looking for new ways to engage her students, many of whom face emotional and behavioral challenges. When she was approached by The Andy Warhol Museum to participate in a pilot program for children with special needs, she was immediately interested.

Watson Board of Trustees member, Dr. A. Jay Gross, connected Donald Warhola, The Andy Warhol Museum of the Visual Arts’ liaison with The Andy Warhol Museum and nephew of Andy Warhol, to the Watson Institute after Donald expressed the Museum’s interest in connecting students with special needs to art in the community.

The goal of the Warhol art pilot program is to help students with emotional and behavioral challenges connect with their feelings and use creative means as a positive and productive outlet. Andy Warhol serves as an appropriate mentor for the students as he used art as a coping mechanism to get through adversities he faced in his childhood.

“Uncle Andy was the son of poor immigrants and he faced a lot of adversity in his childhood.” said Donald Warhola about Andy Warhol. “When one roadblock came up, he persevered and got through it.”

Students with Behavioral Health Challenges Moderate Behavior Using Art

Students with emotional and behavioral health challenges in 6th grade at Friendship Academy were selected to participate in the pilot program. The first step of the project was to introduce the students to Andy Warhol’s artistic style including the various techniques and mediums he used as an artist. The Andy Warhol Museum welcomed the class, touring them through the museum and sharing Warhol’s background and artwork. Students also studied the artwork of Firelei Baez and Jean-Michel Basquiat whose artwork was also on display at the museum.

Hannah Timm, alongside staff from The Andy Warhol Museum, led the students through various art projects at Friendship such as self-portraits, silk screens, a painted mural as well as painted masks. All of these art forms were techniques that Andy Warhol practiced throughout his career.

Hannah encouraged the students to use their artwork to express their emotions and ambitions, much like Warhol did. Throughout the art project, students were encouraged to journal at the beginning of each class to get their creative process started. “Being able to journal and connect things to their emotions was important for the students,” said Hannah of the journaling process. They were encouraged to use their journaling time to write, draw or sketch, using various prompts as their inspiration.

The students’ artwork was also displayed at The Andy Warhol Museum during a sensory-friendly “Silent Disco” event hosted at the museum in celebration of Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. The student artists were encouraged by seeing their artwork prominently displayed in a renowned art museum.

Throughout the project, Hannah has encouraged the students to use these creative outlets to express their emotions, also using each project as an incentive to learn and practice appropriate behaviors and build on their social skills and interactions with their peers.

Learn more about Friendship Academy’s special education school for students with emotional and behavioral disorders and check out The Andy Warhol Museum website to find out how they are connecting with community organizations to make art accessible for individuals of all abilities.