`No Boundaries' for artists in Therapeutic Recreation

Those with disabilities display work at center

July 15, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Twenty-year-old Ellicott City resident Chris Schoenbrodt leans against the gallery wall where a black-and-white photograph hangs. He is a slight, cheerful young man and focuses on the picture with a contented smile.

His photo is a simple one, but Schoenbrodt is proud of having snapped the shot of his art teacher, Karina Kronzer, with his mother's 35 mm camera.

And he is more proud still of being part of the "No Boundaries" art exhibit -- featuring works by 12 disabled local artists -- at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City.

Taking part in the exhibit is fun, said Schoenbrodt, who has a developmental disability. "And I like taking pictures."

The "No Boundaries" artists are part of the Therapeutic Recreation program sponsored by Howard County's Department of Recreation and Parks, and all have some form of physical or mental disability.

The artists -- who range in age from 13 to older than 55 -- meet Saturday mornings in the art room of Owen Brown Middle School in Columbia.

For an hour or so each week, they try their hand at different forms of art: painting, sculpture, photography and drawing. The program lasts for six weeks at a stretch and is offered three times a year.

The county art program has been around in some form for nearly 15 years, and the exhibit -- in its ninth year -- is held at Howard County Center for the Arts each summer.

The goal of the program: to give people with disabilities an opportunity to express themselves in a relaxed and independent environment.

Kronzer, who works part time for Recreation and Parks, plays soothing classical music and encourages each artist to take small steps toward completing each piece.

"It's great because they sit down for work every Saturday and the music's playing and they really come alive," Kronzer said. "I have no expectations of the students or of myself as a teacher. I just want to make them happy, and they have a great time."

Chris' mother, Sandy Schoenbrodt, says there is a real need for therapeutic recreation for the disabled in the county.

"As a mom of a child with special needs, you really want your kid to have as normal a life as other children," she said. "It's nice to have an art program every week where the kids can come in and get messy and just be themselves."

The key to each weekly art project, Kronzer said, is to make the students feel comfortable.

"I usually tell them the basics" about each medium "because I don't want to give them any hints," Kronzer said. "I don't want them to approach the art from my perspective."

Each art project presents its own set of challenges. Some students have never held a camera or tried their hands at watercolor or drawing.

"We take a task-analysis approach to art," said Cathy Vigus, supervisor for the Therapeutic Recreation program, who added that everyone works at his or her own pace. "Sometimes you've got to take small steps that are easy to follow. Then you try to break things down so that they understand what to do."

The art exhibited in "No Boundaries" was completed in two classes -- one for teens, the other for adults -- earlier in the year.

In the show are examples of free-style watercolors and tempura sponge work, pencil drawings and self-portraits.

Over the years, a few artists have sold their work from the exhibit. "But most of them usually are possessive and want to take it home," Vigus said.

The "No Boundaries" artists take part in other recreational programs offered by the Recreation and Parks Department.

The teen and adult leagues have separate social gatherings, including a bowling league, athletic groups and a model railroad club. And they have special-occasion dances: St. Valentine's Day, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day and "beach week" socials.

There is a popular drama program, the highlight of which is a musical event at the end of May. This year, the drama students performed numbers from "Oliver!" and "Grease."

The "No Boundaries" exhibit runs through Aug. 20 in Gallery II at Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. Information: 410-313-2787. Classes for "No Boundaries" artists begin at the end of September. Information: Cathy Vigus at 410-313-4628.

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