Fairbanks Resource Agency's Progressive Art Studio Program supports over 30 artists with disabilities to make artwork to be exhibited in in professional gallery settings. Nationwide these types of programs have come to be known as Progressive Art Studios. These programs are often confused with art therapy, which is administered in a clinical setting by licensed therapists. While art making can have a therapeutic benefit, this is not the goal of a progressive art studio. Rather, we aim to support the development of an individualized art practice, which draws from each artist’s experience of neuro-divergence.
People with disabilities are often forced to conform to neuro-typical standards in all areas of their life, which can convey a message that they’re doing things wrong. It’s not always overt, but years of this type of feedback, through projects that don't make sense and require almost total staff intervention to get a desired product, can affect a person’s self-esteem. We’re trying to change that old model, and instead, send a message that the choices and art that people make are valuable and important. Some people with disabilities have non-verbal and or non-conventional forms of communication. Making art empowers them to communicate in a new way, bridging the communication gap that they experience.
Funded by Alaska (March 2019)