Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ben & Bennie:
Artists in Residence!

A little over a month ago we received an invitation to participate during the month of September at EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia, South Carolina. September serves at EdCeptional Kids Month at what is essentially the official children's museum of our state. During September the museum will offer programs and exhibits to educate the public about issues and challenges facing families and children with special needs. We are honored to be a big part of it!

We have now moved into the difficult part: brainstorming! Although I already have an idea brewing I certainly wouldn't mind hearing anything the Blogoshere has to offer, particularly from those of you with close ties to the special needs community and my artist friends. You can leave them here in the comment box or e-mail me at benwaddell@bellsouth.net. And please don't hesitate to offer them to me no matter how "dumb" you might think they are. Trust me. I've already explored the depths of stupidity already.

The really cool part of all of this is that it's jump-started an idea I've had spinning around in my brain the past few months (yeah, I do know how dangerous that is). With some encouragement from Jane Robelot yesterday I'm going to explore the possibility of doing this type of thing more often, particularly if Ben gets to participate and it occurs during the winter months.

So if you know of a school, group, or corporation looking for some special education or plain old motivation we just might be your guys!

Here is the first part of my idea/proposal to the museum. Again if you want to comment or it generates an idea, let me have it.

Summary: As a professional artist and parent of an exceptional child I have come to believe that every parent of a special needs child is a practicing artist. Certainly every parent has to exhibit an incredible amount of creativity in leading their young ones toward an outcome of healthy happy adults. The parent of a disabled loved one faces even more obstacles and often has no specific outcome at which to aim. A finite amount of variables that factor into an ultimate goal is impossible to calculate.

An artistic example of the difference in parenting can be illustrated by asking an unskilled potter to complete a ceramic piece. The typical parent would be like a ceramic student taking a pottery class. There is an instructor to help the student begin. The student eventually gains more knowledge by asking classmates for ideas and suggestions. By the time glazes are applied the young potter knows from lectures, study, and observation that there are several ways to fire the pot. Ultimately by making a few typical choices the student can already envision the end result before the piece is placed into the kiln.

The exceptional parent however enters the studio alone. There are tools and some instruction manuals lying about but no instructor is to be found. Sitting at a bench is a large lump of clay. At the other end of the room is a large structure that looks like an outdoor fire pit. Some brightly colored cones are arranged neatly off to the side. The student looks at a chalkboard on a wall and reads an instruction written upon it: “Make a completed pot out of your clay.”

Target: It is also my belief that a community shares in the education and healthy growth of all children. The exceptional child is no different. Access to all possible forms of instruction must be gained. Certainly teachers, therapists, medical personnel, facilitators, and caregivers are obvious candidates that would benefit from further education but more important are the majority of South Carolinians that have no exposure to the world of special needs. Despite the fact that most people will eventually face the situation of caring for a disabled individual (ex. elderly parent) or will know someone who requires special care (a neighbor or family friend), many folks have no idea how to even greet a person confined to a wheelchair.

To enlighten the secondary audience is most important. These are the individuals who without knowing it break the hearts of many exceptional children. Many a child requiring profound care through the means of medical equipment, wheelchair, and nursing services has visited a shopping mall and never once received a smile during that visit. I know for a fact that this occurs since it happens all too often with my own son. These excursions are extremely important toward the growth of our son. If he is to function one day in normal social situations we need for him to learn how to interact with others in a healthy manner. We also need for those individuals interacting with our son to deal with him in a healthy social manner.


  1. Educating individuals without disabilities about the obstacles and challenges exceptional people face.
  2. Gaining better communication between the general public and exceptional kids.
  3. Teaching creative thinking to caregivers of special kids.
  4. Completing an art project in which everyone participates as a means of learning and building self-worth.


creative-type dad said...

First of all - congrats to you both on the invitation. I just looked at the site and let me just say...I wish we have a place like that out here in Ca..

As for ideas, you have rock solid goals what about execution? Is this an interactive workshop or an exhibit?
From what you describe, sounds like a workshop is in order.

bennie said...

Definitely interactive. The museum approached me about bringing Ben down and demonstrating. I took the ball and ran with it awhile and now want to facilitate something larger.

Kyla said...

Sounds amazing, Bennie! What you have here sounds wonderful. How exciting!

Kyla said...

I've tagged you for a meme. :)