Baltimore County arts fest unites students with, without disabilities

Oregon Ridge event today offers crafts, games, music

April 29, 2003|By Abby Foster | Abby Foster,SUN STAFF

Students with and without disabilities will enjoy a day of art projects, circus performers, trained animals and other activities today at the annual Baltimore County Public Schools Very Special Arts Festival.

This year, the festival's theme is "Let your spirit shine: Do your pART." The festival uses art to bring together students of all ages and abilities from schools throughout the county.

"Kids without disabilities that volunteered were so happy and so engaged, they talked about it all year," said Sara Egorin-Hooper, chairwoman of the Very Special Arts Committee.

"Everybody's uniqueness is honored" at the festival, Egorin-Hooper said. "It's cherished there."

The festival will be at the Lodge at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The Very Special Arts Festival will feature four activities, including make-and-take projects, motor activities, performing arts, and environmental/discovery arts. All activities are designed for students of all abilities.

Make-and-take projects will be inside the Lodge and encompass a variety of arts and crafts, including making T-shirts and magnets, and decorating cookies and painting faces. Motor activities for children with and without disabilities will be administered by physical education teachers, who created the games and activities.

In the performing arts part of the festival, student musical and performing groups of all ages, including middle and high school jazz bands, will play.

Discovery art will take place outside throughout the park, where students will find, among other attractions, circus performers, a petting zoo and alpacas.

Egorin-Hooper said students will create postcards out of old, recycled cards and mail them to U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The festival was originally established in Baltimore County schools for children with disabilities. In 1991, it was opened to all children, "to reflect a more inclusive philosophy," according to Egorin-Hooper.

Throughout the park, children will find clowns, magicians, balloon artists, jugglers, people on stilts, storytellers, a disc jockey, a steel drum band, a petting zoo, wool spinners and a dog that performs tricks.

About 2,000 participants and volunteers are expected to attend, including parents and community members. AmeriCorps and Best Buddies members are among the volunteers. Between volunteers and parents, there are often half as many adults in attendance as children, said Egorin-Hooper.

Very Special Arts was founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith and is an international nonprofit educational affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

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