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Black History Month: Students with Special Needs Reimagine African American Art

Black History Month: Students with Special Needs Reimagine African American Art

  • In the News |
  • Student Voice |
  • January 31, 2020

More than 30 high school students in the Charles H. Flowers High School Community Referenced Instruction (CRI) program produced an art exhibit inspired by the work of local African American artists.

Upon being awarded a Maryland Humanities mini grant, special education teacher LeAnn Holden-Martin partnered with local artists who agreed to loan artwork to the school. 

Using those works as a launchpad, students created their own interpretations — vibrant and imaginative art pieces made of paints, chalks, papers, fabrics and more. collage of CH Flowers HS CRI art

The exhibit, “What We See” African American Art Through The Eyes of High School Students With Special Needs,” features their collective artwork and the documentation of the process.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to share in art interpretation from young adults with cognitive disabilities,” Holden-Martin said, noting that Marylanders with disabilities are underrepresented in the area of humanities. “We want people to know our students for their abilities — not their disabilities. With art there are no boundaries, so they can’t be wrong.”

There were also no boundaries in the ways teachers assisted students in realizing their artistic dreams.

To assist one student in a wheelchair, teachers and staff tapped into their own creativity to build a device that helped the student reach and paint. And to make sophomore Eric Dunn’s recreation of the work “Lost King” come to life, teachers collected dozens of bottle caps which Dunn attached to his canvas with hot glue.  

Maryland Humanities grants support projects that explore the human experience and help improve understanding of diverse communities to build healthy and equitable communities.

See the exhibit “What We See” African American Art Through The Eyes of High School Students With Special Needs“ on February 5 at the Bowie Branch Library from 6:30 - 8:00 pm.