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Awakening and Nurturing a Child’s Love of Art

Published in ChicagoNow, March 10, 2014

My granddaughter struggles to express herself with words, but she has always been always eager to express herself through her art. After being tossed from an art program last summer, she was pretty discouraged. This is a girl who would rather be creating art than most anything else.

Happily, we found our way to Jan Ellenstein at Open Studio Project (OSP) in Evanston. OSP is a dynamic, award-winning arts programming with a welcoming, accepting, and inclusive approach to creating art. Started by art therapists, its mission is to “bring the creative process to interested individuals and groups of all ages and backgrounds, and to empower people to turn to art for personal growth.”

Sarah Laing, a member of the OSP Board of Directors, describes the program as,

“A welcoming space to make art, an emotionally safe place to create. We are supportive simply by allowing each individual to work without interference. At our studio, art is a p-r-o-c-e-s-s – not a product.”

This is definitely the perfect place for a girl like my granddaughter who has always colored outside the lines. Her unique personality and talent are valued and respected by her teacher, Jan, who provides her with exciting materials and allows her to experience the joy of creation without having any final product in mind.

The joy my granddaughter experiences while creating her art is only matched by the pride she takes in bringing it home. She likes to display as much of it as possible and keeps the rest in a huge portfolio in her bedroom. For a child with learning challenges, what this does for her self-esteem is beyond measure. Her art speaks for her.

In addition to being a safe and creative home for a girl with special needs who loves art, OSP partners with service agencies to provide art programs for at-risk youth and offers classes for preschoolers through adults as well as specialized workshops.

Thanks to Open Studio Project for helping a child communicate through her art.


by Laurie Levy
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