Nurturing the Soul Through Art, Education and Participation

 

At the Cobblestone Arts Center for Persons with Disabilities, it’s all about community enrichment. The fundamental objective is to expand creativity, dignity and grace to foster independence and individuality in each student who enters the center. Located in a brick farmhouse on Route 332 in Farmington, the Cobblestone Arts Center was founded by Lorene Benson in 1983. In 1999, the organization became certified by the New York State Department of Developmental Disabilities as a Medicaid funded program. Since then, it has experienced remarkable growth. Through the use of many different forms of art, the center has provided an outlet for the unspoken language among our vastly diverse communities. In turn, this has allowed for the eradication of countless prejudices and stereotypes.

Benson, the center’s director, began her teaching career as a dance teacher in 1974. She founded the Center to teach classes to people of all ages: ballet, breakdancing, private musical instrument class, and even sculpture classes. Benson later began a wheelchair dance company that would shape the future of the center.

After much success, the center started offering a range of classes for those with disabilities. Lorene has used her love for the arts to inspire and encourage those of all ages and capabilities. “These students are such a receptive and graceful group of people,” she says. “It’s a gift to watch and see the joy that transpires for them.” The center will soon be able to host a variety of showcases for the community after the construction of a new performing arts facility.

After the construction of two separate additions, the Arts Center currently has 8,000 square feet of functional space. There are numerous classrooms, including a computer study room where students interact online through blogging, facebook and other various modes of web communication. There is a dance studio where students practice ballroom dancing, ballet and perform conditioning exercises. Many students are involved in sculpture and painting classes, as well as music classes where they participate in drum circles and work on their vocals.

The center provides transportation for students to and from their homes. The Cobblestone Center is an all day program from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Students also have the opportunity to be involved in a number of art-related activities throughout the community, including trips to galleries and dance performances. It is a great opportunity to introduce them to other artists and also be a part of the community.

The students who attend the center are engaged from the moment they walk in the door. They learn through art how to nurture the soul and they come together to appreciate what everyone has to offer. It is no real wonder why the students truly love what they do.


by Hannah Kallet