Special-needs students create heartfelt art

By BRIANA HARRIS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – At the Linda Nolen Learning Center’s Art from the Heart festival on Tuesday, Oct. 11, students got a chance to participate in school tradition.

From making necklaces, painting feathers, printmaking and canvas painting – students rotated through more than 10 art stations creating and engaging their senses.

“With our bottle top artwork, we outlined Starry Night by Van Gogh and the students filled in the shape with different types of bottle tops,” said Kim Falkner, teacher and member of the art festival committee. “We used everything from Coke bottle caps to peanut butter jar lids.”

The bottle top artwork and other large pieces of artwork will be displayed throughout the school. The students painted 4-by-4 inch wood posts that will be placed in the school’s garden and 8-by-2 inch popsicle sticks that will be arranged in a frame and displayed inside the school.

For two hours the Birmingham-based 911 Band played a variety of songs from popular artists while the students enjoyed grilled hotdogs, danced and crooned along. About 30 students from Kingwood Christian School helped NLC students navigate from station to station.

The school serves students, ages 3-21, in three programs: a multi-disabled program for students ages 5-21, the Star Program, serving students with severe emotional needs in kindergarten through eighth grade and the Eclipse Program serving typical and atypical students ages 3-4.

The event was coordinated by the school’s art festival committee, which includes Falkner, committee chairwoman Michaelle Ledlow and Wendy Farmer.

Falkner said each art station was adapted to fit the abilities of each student so no one felt left out or unable to participate. Some stations also helped stimulate sensory receptors.

Falkner said the event is so important for students – some of which are nonverbal or have significant physical disabilities – because many of them never get to experience going to an art museum or a concert.

“We all work together every year to do this because art and music are ways for them to express themselves and they love it,” Falkner said.