Only one student at Philadelphia’s HMS School for children with cerebral palsy can draw a face, but all of them created colorful works of art and participated in performances during the school’s first expressive arts festival.
The 56 students at HMS school in West Philadelphia have severe disabilities from cerebral palsy. All are in motorized wheel chairs, most use computers to communicate, but executive director Diane Gallagher says it is the philosophy of HMS school to look at what kids CAN do, rather than what they can’t.
She says staff focuses on what students can bring, what they can help them elicit, so that they can participate in as typical a childhood and young adulthood as possible.
Art and creative expression should be part of that, says Gallagher. For the festival, students created stunning abstract paintings and collages. Eiko Fan, the school’s art teacher, says students use special brushes, some paint with markers attached to headbands, others with their feet: “everything is abstract, but it is powerful. Some of them only move one inch of their head, but they do it their best.”
Fan says producing art brings joy to her students’ lives, and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Students also participated in dance and theater performances along-side able-bodied peers.