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Creativity Blooms in Persons with Disabilities

Shahna Sprecher creates art

Ask Shahna Sprecher, 39, who began drawing and painting at five, what’s important to her. She may not answer directly, but she will no doubt point to her tote bag as if to say, “Creating art is the primary my focus of my day. Every day.”

One glance at the bulging bag, and you know that she means it. A chaotic assemblage of an artist’s tools -- drawing books, tracing paper, boxes of colored markers, pens and paintbrushes -- pushes skyward, each tool waiting its turn to be used.

Today, Sprecher, with her impish sense of humor, and the strong will typical of a person with Down Syndrome, hunches intently over a desk.

Sporting her signature spiky haircut, Sprecher is working on a piece of art she may decide to submit to Artwalk next year, a cultural event that recently opened with a citywide extravaganza in Moscow.

Since 2004, when the University’s Center on Disabilities and Human Development (CDHD) made its first call for artists to participate in Art walk, Sprecher, along with numerous other local artists with disabilities, took advantage of the opportunity to show and sell her art.

“Artwalk is such a wonderful outlet for our participants,” says Valerie Cutshall, administrator of C & R, a local agency that works with children and adults with disabilities.

The benefits of helping someone find a creative outlet can provide alternative means of communication.

“It can assist a person in learning how to express feelings and emotions in a positive way,” says Cutshall. “Engaging in art oftentimes will produce feelings of relaxation, and wonderful self-worth for our participants. It is also a fun way to help someone explore how to do something new.”

Toby Schultz

Toby Schultz, 38, described as friendly, positive, and fun loving, has also participated in Artwalk since the first show, as well as being chosen for inclusion in CDHD’s annual calendar.

“I guess it’s the country thing that gets me excited the most. I like to make pictures of nature, old boats, animals, barns and landscapes,” says Schultz.

He looks forward to creating something new each year that he can show to other people at Artwalk.

“It’s fun hearing what people have to say about my work, and it’s usually good,” says Schultz.

Feedback is so good, in fact, that he has his own fan club. At the opening, his work is usually among the first to sell.

Bobby Lucker

Bobby Lucker, 43, energetic, funny and who sings like a bird, also is featured at Artwalk this summer.

“Participating in an event like this gives Bobbie a sense of pride and accomplishment,” says Pat Lucker, Bobbie's mother.

Bobbie, who is autistic, is not new to showing her art. In 1989, while in high school, she was selected to attend the International Very Special Arts (VSA) Festival in Washington, D.C. Her work was shown alongside projects created by other persons with disabilities from throughout the US and 42 foreign countries.

“Included in the VSA Festival was a poignant self-portrait,” says Lucker. “The large colorful painting depicted a carousel. Standing nearby was a little girl, with curly hair, glasses, and a tear in her eye. She was responding to the sign on the carousel that read, “Sorry! Closed!”

Anyone who knows Lucker is aware of her love of carousels, kites and National Public Radio. At this year’s Artwalk, along with the work of 32 other local artists, she will be showing more of her kites.

In the last eight years, CDHD has accepted, matted and framed 321 pieces of art with prices ranging from $15-200.

“Staff and faculty have enjoyed bringing Artwalk to the Center,” says Julie Fodor, CDHD director. “It has become an opportunity for us to give back to the community.”

The current exhibit, by both children and adults, will run at CDHD through July 8 and includes acrylic, needlepoint, photography, ceramics, watercolor, pencil, marker and collage works.

Purchases can be made during normal business hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and will be available for pick up after July 8 at the CDHD Artwalk Gallery, located at 121 West Sweet Avenue in Moscow, by the University of Idaho entrance fountains.

As a follow up to Artwalk, CDHD staff is given the opportunity to vote for their favorite piece of art in the show. Winning artwork is then featured in a colorful desk calendar and sold prior to the new year.

For more information on Artwalk or the upcoming 2012 Artwalk Calendar, contact Julie Magelky, CDHD dissemination director, at (208) 885-6000.