November 3, 2014
Janice Magness, director of the Transition Academy, home to 15 teenagers and young adults who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), said the students spend about an hour each day working on art projects. Art teacher Maggie Vasquez will create a wreath, a pin or a picture frame to give the students ideas, then each comes up with an example, looks up images on the Internet and uses those images and Vasquez's examples to create a unique piece of art.
“They're very creative,” Magness said. “They don't copy what she did. They put their own creative twist on it.”
The wreaths are themed – fall, Thanksgiving, Texas Tech and Christmas – and covered with brightly colored ribbons, bows, leaves and other decorations. Jewelry is made with a machine that transforms paper into beads.
They will also be selling Christmas cards; each of the students designs a card, and then they are professionally copied and packaged so every buyer gets one of each student's card.
“Our students receive art instruction that transcends the typical arts and crafts approach many programs use to occupy time,” said Tawny Mills, a vocational instructor at Transition Academy. “Our students are provided a quality education that allows them to develop and implement creative strategies in all aspects of life. Students within the Transition Academy learn to recognize and manifest their inherent creativity in various media, expanding their confidence in themselves and how they interact with the world.
“The power of art is undeniable.”
All the buyers at the Art Trail will get to talk with the students, who will be there selling their products. Magness said many people with ASD use art to express themselves and she wants them to not only use their art to say something but also tell people about their art.
“They have to stand and make a pitch,” Magness said. “It's good for them to converse with people about their art.”
The students will be at McPherson Cellars, 1615 Texas Ave., where social skills instructor Chris Ramos, also an artist, displays his work. The First Friday Art Trail begins at 6:30 p.m. Interested buyers can also contact the Burkhart Center to peruse the art or special order a piece.
“Art makes people use a different part of their brain that inspires creativity,” Ramos said. “It is a great outlet to alleviate stress and can be therapeutic on so many levels. My hope is that they will continue to use art long after they leave the Burkhart Center Transition Academy.”
The College of Education at Texas Tech University offers a full range of programs, including eight doctoral degrees, 12 master's degrees and two bachelor's degrees with numerous specializations leading to careers in public or private education as teachers, professors, administrators, counselors and diagnosticians.
The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research is part of the College of Education and is the premier center in Lubbock for research, education and assistance for families affected by autism.
Research at the center covers three major aspects: developing strategies for the preparation of teachers to meet the needs of students, examining ways to develop parent support networks and preparing individuals with autism as they transition from school to adult services.
The Transition Academy, the center’s flagship program, is home to about 15 teenagers and young adults who have an autism spectrum disorder. They come to campus Monday through Friday to learn job and life skills, including how to live independently, and many have jobs through partnerships with campus and community organization.
The Burkhart Center is named for Jim and Jere Lynn Burkhart in honor of their grandson Collin.