Party Art links with UAB to offer special needs art classes

PELHAM – Since starting Party Art Studio about 10 years ago, owner Abbey Thompson said it was always her dream to one day be able to help others in a meaningful way.

Her dream recently became a reality when she signed a contract with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to allow students in the university’s occupational therapy (OT) graduate program to assist with her summer arts and crafts camp that will one day offer classes for people with special needs.

“There’s really not a place for kids and adults with special needs to come and participate in art classes on a regular basis,” Thompson said. “It’s really just a dream come true.”

During the first year of the partnership, Deek Cunningham, UAB assistant professor and academic field coordinator, said the OT students will assist with the four-week camp with typically developing children and then incorporate participants with special needs the next year.

“We want the student to get a feel for it first before bringing in people with special needs,” he said.

Sixty students in the OT program will be assisting Thompson with the camp, which is in its fourth year. The students recently visited Party Art to participate in an art class and to learn more about the journey they will be embarking on.

The idea to include individuals with special needs came from Cunningham, who first met Thompson at a paint party held at her studio, which is located at 2655 Pelham Parkway.

“From an occupational therapy standpoint, we developed out of the arts and crafts movement – that’s why this arrangement is a perfect fit,” Cunningham said. “Occupational therapy refers to anything that occupies your time – so things like getting dressed, hobbies or for children, playing.”

He said art can be used to help people in a variety of ways. It could help restore motor functions in someone who had a stroke or as a coping mechanism for those with mental health issues.

Cunningham said the OT students would be tasked with adapting each patient’s environment to allow them to participate in the camp. He said adapting the environment could mean different things for each patient.

Thompson said when Cunningham first mentioned the possibility of offering art classes for those with special needs, she was a bit apprehensive because she didn’t know anything about occupational therapy.

“The more and more I thought about it and the more we talked about it, the more it just made sense and it just clicked,” Thompson said.

Party Art’s four-week arts and crafts camp begins June 4 and is held Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The course will be divided into four sessions from June 4-7, June 11-14, July 16-19 and July 23-26.

To register for classes, go to PartyArtStudio.net. More information about Party Art can be found on their Facebook and Instagram pages under the name Party Art Studio or by calling 253-2984.

Aside from art camp, Party Art hosts private parties for adults and children and can custom cut pieces of wood to match a customer’s interest. Open paint hours are listed every month on the studio’s social media pages and website.