Students with disabilities get creative with clay at the Prairie Arts Center

Wava Best, left, teaches Gina Courter and Jared Gies, students at the Transition House with North Platte Public Schools, how to apply the glaze paint to their clay art projects at the Prairie Arts Center, while Holly Carlini, PAC executive director, looks on.

Students from the North Platte Public Schools’ Transition Living House, the ESU-OWLS (Opportunities With Life Skills) and Hershey Public Schools have been creating ceramic pieces at the Prairie Arts Center.

The classes are sponsored by a grant from the Richard P. Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation and have opened the opportunity for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn more about art.

“We are holding some clay classes with some groups in town,” said Holly Carlini, executive director. “The classes are designed for teenagers and adults that have developmental disabilities — Down syndrome, autism and other (conditions) like that.”

The classes were inspired by the Clayworks program that are on display at the PAC, Carlini said. Clayworks is in McPherson, Kansas, where Disability Supports of the Great Plains gave people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to not only create art, but to turn that art into a business. The PAC is hosting Clayworks artwork on its main floor through the end of April; then Carlini said a few of the pieces will transition into the gift shop.

“The classes allows us to provide a great creative, fun opportunity that maybe some people around town wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise,” Carlini said. “The students will be going about six weeks, every Monday.”

The students created their clay pieces — ornaments, bowls, plates, sculptures — and Carlini said the PAC staff fired them in a kiln.

“They’ll take them home and decorate the ornaments and put wire and hangers on them,” Carlini said. “Some have created Mother’s Day gifts or just bowls to keep in their home or to display.”

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