Teaching Artist in Residency Program
The Vision of TARP:
The cornerstone of our Teaching Artist in Residency Program (TARP) is leadership. Leadership positions for people with disabilities provides visibility, promotes inclusion, and broadens what those in the leadership positions and those who are watching think is possible. It is paramount for people with developmental disabilities to have leadership roles and have the opportunity to be role models for others like them. TARP allows our artists to train as art educators and influence younger people by applying the model of our studio in the smaller setting of an art classroom.
Funding for art programming has been cut more than 80% in the US school districts since 2008, and this is especially prevalent in special education. Arts education is missing from area transition programs and this limits the student's’ ability to explore their interests. TARP seeks to build on the practical social skills developed in transition programs. Art provides a safe space for students to learn valuable skills and boost their self-confidence. Students are able to make their own decisions, determine if it was a success, and make another decision in response. Students can then translate these gains into other aspects of their lives.
The Teaching Artist Residency Program provides an opportunity for students with disabilities to develop their sense of independence. Because there are no mistakes in art making, each artistic decision creates a new problem solving opportunity. The Arts of Life considers art making an emerging best practice in the field of disability and an invaluable tool in self-determination.
History of the Organization:
The Arts of Life opened in 2000 on Chicago’s near west side and is the first Alternative Day Program in Chicago for people with disabilities that focused on artistic vocational opportunities. After eight years of proven success in supporting artists who have intellectual disabilities, The Arts of Life was approached by north suburban parents who were looking for similar services and support for their children as they aged out of the education system. After researching and collaborating with parents and existing housing providers, the studio launched its North Shore program in 2010. Today, The Arts of Life has two professional art studios that support over sixty artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities to engage in a variety of artistic mediums.
The Teaching Artist Residency Program (TARP) gives high school students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to explore art making as a vocation with the possibility of transitioning into The Arts of Life adult studio.
The Arts of Life is guided by Four Core Values, which encourage personal and professional development of its artists and Teaching Artist Residency Program participants.
Inspiring Artistic Expression: Our model uses art facilitation to support creative decision-making and experimentation, increasing the artists’ self-confidence.
Building Community: Our primary purpose is supporting each other as professional artists in creating a thriving arts community based on cooperative decision-making and mutual respect.
Promoting Self-Respect: We encourage our members to accept themselves for who they are and develop a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
Developing Independence: Through their artwork and as members of the community, our artists gain a sense of inner freedom, enabling them to take risks and trust their own judgment.
Previously, we offered art classes to NSSED students through their partnership with Oakton Community College. To begin the second year of our partnership with NSSED, we started offering classes at their new transition site in Deerfield.
This semester our class had almost all new students and we spoke about the concepts of movement, process, balance, and contrast. Each unit is designed to integrate art-making and art-history, exposing the students to new ways of making and to gain knowledge of the art world as a whole. In our movement unit, we practiced drawing from life when students volunteered to model an action for the class. When discussing process, students created rules to follow as they made their piece. We spoke about Rorschach’s inkblots and discussed the works of Vija Celmins when exploring balance. Finally, we created a new sign that spells “transition” using contrasting colors for the student to hang in their new space.
The semester culminated in a show of the student work in The Arts of Life’s gallery at the North Shore entitled “Happy.” The students in the class chose the title of the show together, and we hosted a reception of their work for their families to view and visit the studio. Several artists who work at the North Shore studio, and their families, attended as ambassadors to did a great job of making everyone feel welcome.
 Boyd, Stacey. "Extracurriculars Are Central to Learning." U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.