Art on the Square Foundation has developed an innovative art program that expands our present community outreach endeavors. The foundation is in a unique position to partner with the Belleville Township High School District #201 Bridges-Connections Program. Bridges-Connections are special needs students ages eighteen to twenty-two with developmental and cognitive disabilities. The program serves students with Autism and Autism Spectrum, Aspergers Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, emotional disorders, mental illness, and physical disabilities. Medical diagnoses include Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, and Spina Bifida.
The recent purchase of the Ravissant Winery by District 201, home to the Bridges-Connections program, gives us the opportunity to expand our outreach program while reaching an underserved population. The previous wine tasting barn will be used as the workshop and gallery where students will create and showcase their work in a natural setting. Throughout the year, students’ work will be exhibited at community functions that include local art festivals, Chamber of Commerce events and high school art festivals. The ultimate goal is to establish a PNC Arts Alive Bridges Gallery to sell the student work to the general public.
Located on the Belleville West High School campus, the PNC Arts Alive Program will increase engagement and access to the arts among a diverse audience. Belleville East and Belleville West students in the general education art program and the Bridges-Connections Program will work collaboratively with artists from the Gateway East Artists Guild. The PNC Arts Alive program will give Bridges-Connections students the opportunity to create fine arts projects under the guidance and instruction of local artists.
PNC Arts Alive will have a tremendous impact on an underserved and economically disadvantaged population of students who have had limited exposure to the arts. Fifty percent of the students in the Bridges-Connections are low income and thirty five percent are minorities.
Art on the Square, recognized as the #1 Art Show in the Nation (Art Fair Source Book 2008, 2010, 2011), has a reputation throughout the entire Metro East and the nation for excellence and strong community support. This program is an excellent learning opportunity for cooperative mentoring by high school students in the regular arts curriculum. It also is a unique collaborative process for local art foundations, the public school system and professional artists. PNC Arts Alive programming will reach a diverse audience of special needs, low income and minority students who have had limited access to the arts.