Enabling the disabled through art


April 11, 2002|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE PROVIDENCE CENTER in Arnold offers a service that gives developmentally disabled adults the opportunity to participate in activities that bring them into the mainstream of life, helping them feel that they are an accepted part of the community.

The center is more than 30 years old and has been at its current location, on Shore Acres Road, for seven years.

Through the center's Art Institute, Providence clients study visual arts at the center and at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Clients are able to try their hands at painting pictures, making jewelry and painting furniture.

"The developmentally disabled population experiences so much disappointment in their lives," says Mike Patton, director of the center's Art Institute. "This program is good for them. It allows us to have as many people involved as we do."

The art center began in 1991 with 14 students, Patton says. A performing arts program, which has 30 participants, was added three years later.


"We started small, but there is quite a demand for the opportunity for these adults to express themselves," he says. "These artists are self-motivated."

Many become accomplished artists. Liz Johnson of Severna Park is one of the successful painters among the 160 artists in the visual arts program.

"Liz is a natural painter," Patton says.

Her favorite medium is acrylic on paper, says her mother, Meredith Johnson. She can look at the paper, add the color and know just when a composition is complete, her mother says.

Johnson, who is developmentally disabled, has sold nearly a dozen works of art.

Twenty of her acrylic paintings are being featured at a one-woman show this month in the gallery at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Old Severna Park.

Meredith Johnson says events such as this are possible because of the support of Woods' minister, the Rev. Terry Schoener.

The public can meet the 33-year-old artist and see her latest work at a reception from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. this Saturday at the church.

An artist since early childhood, Johnson's first entry in an adult, juried show was at the Maryland Federation of Art in Annapolis. Her painting in acrylics was titled "Red Tide."

When she walked into the gallery on Church Circle, her mother says, she immediately spotted a painting across the room that she particularly liked. To her delight, the painting turned out to be by her daughter.

Fourth place

In that show, Mrs. Johnson explains, the artists were not identified, and family and friends were thrilled when Johnson's painting took fourth place.

Painting pictures is just one way that Providence clients learn to express themselves. They can work in the pottery shop and horticultural greenhouses in Arnold or in the wood working shop in Millersville. They can attend the senior center in Pasadena or the activity center in Glen Burnie. Or they can benefit from the Providence Center's employment service in Arnold, which helps find jobs for center clients.

At the center's retail store in Pasadena, shoppers can buy items made by Providence clients, such as birdhouses from the wood shop, decorative pieces from the pottery studio, crafts and plants.

Contract work

At Baldwin Industries on Ritchie Highway in Arnold, clients work on contract assignments, Patton says. One job was to assemble the packages of knives, forks and spoons that airlines distribute with passenger meals. Patton says Providence workers are able to do jobs that require a lot of handwork and counting.

A reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 2 will precede a show by the visual arts students in the Cardinal Gallery at Maryland Hall. Members of the performing arts group will present a program of dance at noon and 6:30 p.m. May 21 at Maryland Hall.

For information about its services, call Providence Center at 410-315-8303.

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