ArtAbilities exhibition begins May 7

Published 4:44 pm Monday, May 2, 2011

Back row (L-R): Artist Jess Marie Walker, Teacher Robert Barnes and Aid Donna Farish. Front row (L-R): Ethan Wilson, Ava Harris, Chanidria Shamburger and Alex Jarrett. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Every child has the desire to make art. This premise is the heart of ArtAbilities, a program for children with special needs, sponsored by the Shelby County Arts Council.

Funded by a grant from the Shelby County Community Health Foundation, the ArtAbilities art therapy program has been a nine-week program in 16 Shelby County schools during the 2010-2011 school year.

The program has been developed by artist Jess Marie Walker, a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a degree in fine arts. Walker has been the coordinator and primary instructor for the ArtAbilities program for the last three years. She looks for ideas to balance new ways of thinking and teaching, challenging the students but helping them to succeed.

“We often see positive growth in many development areas for children participating in ArtAbilities classes including fine motor skills, sensory adaption, social skills, behavioral skills, cognitive processes and more,” said Walker. “In addition, the art lessons we implement integrate other subjects such as geography, physical science, mathematics, language arts and art history in fun and memorable ways.”

Walker is currently at Creek View Elementary teaching in Mr. Robert Barnes’ class. Barnes, a soft-spoken and patient man, graduated from UAB and has been teaching at Creek View for the last three years.

“I love teaching children with physical and mental special needs,” said Barnes. “It is a calling for me. I feel these children have the same entitlement to a happy life by finding an alternative way to get there.”

The children worked together peacefully at one big table assisted by Barnes, Walker and two aids. The day’s project work was a multi-colored abstract that challenged the students in many ways: the use of fine motor skills to stay in the lines; decision making of choosing coordinating colors; patience to complete coloring every bit of white space; painting their piece of art gently and not smashing the brush; and the joy of a beautiful complete work of art.

These special children have a special day coming up: Saturday, May 7, 2011, from 3:30-5 p.m. Their art will be on display at a celebration and art exhibition at the SCAC building, 104 Mildred Street in Columbiana. Their art show is free, open to the public and refreshments will be served. Come and enjoy the creative talents of our very special children in Shelby County. Their artwork will be on display from May 3-19.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by email at

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

email author More by Phoebe Donald