Special students show off their performance abilities in showcase

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the VSA (Very Special Arts) Summer Arts Collaboration Performance presented by the Merced County Office of Education. Though I knew the event would be entertaining, I had no idea how much it would impact me, and I was touched more than the words, photos, and videos in this article can accurately express.

The event was a showcase of the abilities of those with disabilities. The participants were fully engaged in a month-long intensive arts program at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.  They spent 90 minutes each day in a rich arts class, which included expressive arts, creative writing, drawing, painting, and music. The last two years the Bear Creek Ukulele Society even offered their support to sponsor a music component.

For another 90 minutes of each day, the participants attended dance and movement classes led by registered dance/movement therapist Pattee Russell-Curry.  The participants brought to the program skills and planned activities that they had prepared to present. Many participants have been doing this for a number of years, an indication of the success of such a wonderful endeavor. The new participants were encouraged and prompted to take risks and to explore expressive artistic talent they might not even have known existed.

The entire intensive program is designed to be therapeutic, involving music therapy, art therapy, and dance/movement therapy.  In addition, MCOE receives the support and guidance from the physical and occupational therapists of California Children’s Services, associated with Merced County Health Department.

For the school-aged participants, the activities/curriculum support the goals and objectives of their educational placements.  The participants come from all communities of Merced County, thus being supported by the school districts for transportation, lunch, and health support.  The Merced County Office of Education coordinates the school-related support, and provides the required health and educational components of the program.  MCOE support staff assists with the procurement of the contractual arrangements with the Merced County Arts Council and the Merced Union High School District for theater space. They receive a lot of additional support from the community.

The California Arts Council provided a grant this year for the first time, allowing activities to be offered after school or during school vacations. The grant, in addition to the support of many agencies, allowed the showcase last week to be so successful.

Director John Russell-Curry told ALLmercednews.com that “It cannot be over-stated that endeavors such as this enjoy or can attribute much of their success because of individual community members, families, and friends.  One of the biggest components that lends itself to the success is the audience themselves, who enthusiastically support our participants with amazing positive regard.”

The showcase included (with each deserving accolades and sincere appreciation):

  • Participants from adult day programs such as Haven, the Enrichment Center, and most notably the Dream Enterprise which is a component of the Challenged Family Resource Center – whose support staff are exceptional hard-working and supportive!
  • Participants from the Merced County Office of Education’s program for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Participants from the MCOE special education programs.
  • Participants from the MCOE program for those with orthopedic impairments.
  • Community volunteers who come to participate fully throughout the month, or come when schedules allow.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and the VSA showcase was a true demonstration of that statement in action!

We hope you take some time to watch some if not all of the wonderful performances that were showcased last week. Keep a kleenex handy.

Link to page containing all the videos (will also be embedded below)