BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
Students in the Social Practice Art class at FHSU have been meeting with students from the local WeKan Center every Thursday. Students from the WeKan Center are individuals with disabilities aged 18 to 21 who go through a transition program to learn life and work skills.
By partnering with FHSU students, the WeKan students have learned how to be creative and think outside the box through different mediums of art.
“They were kind of set in what they were used to doing, and this program has gotten them to think outside the box and stretch themselves,” WeKan Center Transition Coordinator Dawn Howard said.
The partnership between the two groups demonstrates what the students in Social Practice Art, which will be called Community Based Art in the future, work to do. Another example is the FACT workshop that has had two sessions so far. This workshop brings together first responders and individuals with cognitive disabilities, to make their encounters less intimidating.
“We get to talk about our personal experiences, as well as things that we think in our community could change, or that we could have an impact on,” a Social Practice Art student named PJ said.
“We all have a very strong connection to working with people,” he added. “We recognize that in our community, people with disabilities are just not treated the same.”
Most recently, the two groups made collages from ripped up posters. Sydney, one of the WeKan students, said that the collages were her favorite project they had worked on.
“I like talking to [the FHSU students] and getting to know them, and then doing fun things with art,” she said.
According to Howard, the connections made between the students have been the most important part of their interactions.
“They’ve gotten to collaborate with peers that are the same age but in a different program,” she said. “To see what they have in common and what’s different, and just having that time to develop relationships with other people their same age has been really good for them.”
Howard also mentioned the impact that this collaboration has had on the students’ futures.
“Eventually, when the Fort Hays State students graduate, and when our students are done with their program, they could be out in the community together. I think it’s helped each side to appreciate what the other side has to offer. They’ve found out that they do have a lot in common,” Howard said.
For PJ, the experience has helped “provide a new basis of friendship.”
“It inspires us to continue,” he said. “I know several students are wanting to pursue further education or maybe even careers in art, so this is showing them what they can do that we don’t have access to in high school. A lot of this stuff, I didn’t even know existed until I came here. I feel like introducing other people to it is fun, because I got so much enjoyment out of being introduced to it, so I just want to spread that happiness.”