Maggi Cummings, art teacher at Hunters Creek Elementary, is dedicated to helping her students express themselves through art. Recently, Cummings taught students about the importance of inclusivity, artistic creativity and being Empathetic & Self Aware by partnering with Sandal Gap Studio to bring Close the Gap to Hunters Creek.
Sandal Gap Studio is a local nonprofit organization that promotes inclusion through art. As an art studio, they bring together artists with special needs and actively strive to connect society with individuals with disabilities.
"This program builds a bridge between students and young adults with disabilities and provides a connection and relationship so that when students go out into the world, they have this previous experience and aren’t afraid of people who are different from them," said Cummings. "Having Close the Gap here at Hunters Creek Elementary is creating that first experience for students."
The organization was founded by Lisa Eicher when she discovered she needed a place to display her daughter Sevy's art. Sevy has special needs. Together with her husband and another daughter, Ace, a former Hunters Creek student, they set out to create a space where "art is used as the common language among the verbal and non-verbal."
Sandal Gap Studio's program, Close the Gap, brings artists and third graders together for a week during their scheduled art time. The students are paired with artists and work on a project focused on the various art mediums that the artists create at Sandal Gap Studios. During this time, students have the opportunity to Communicate & Collaborate as they get to know the artists. Program projects are structured to encourage the participation of all students.
"It’s so important to give students the opportunity to be around those who are different from them," said Eicher. "It benefits the students just as much as young adults with disabilities."
“I like this activity because it’s all about being with someone and helping someone do something that they want to do, like make art,” said 3rd-grade student Robert Page. “I think it’s special because it’s all about letting people know that they’re not alone.”
The program's goal is to be part of every third grade classroom in the United States.
“The students enjoy having conversations with our visitors, making art with them and making new friends,” said Cummings. “There’s always a lot of growth and joy throughout the week.”
View the photo album to see students in action!