As Anderson Community Schools student Matt Killian fashioned a peace sign out of black and orange construction paper on a cardboard circle Thursday, his smile gave away his feelings about the day’s events.
Killian joined other ACS special education students Thursday for the 10th annual P.G. Gray Festival, an event designed to bring awareness of the arts to the students, who often don’t get to participate in the field trips their classmates do. Led by teaching artists from VSA Arts, the students spent the day learning about art, music, drama, dancing and movement.
“I like painting and art,” Killian said. “And we wrapped blankets like a taco.” [Photo on left: Carl Erskine teaches Eastside Elementary students harmonica during the PG Gray Festival at the Anderson University Kardatzke Wellness Center Thursday. Students learn about the arts during the annual event.]
Student Tynaisha Fuller explained her favorite parts of the day, which included roaring like a lion and pretending to pour water over her head in a drama lesson, as she put together a neon peace sign with flowers.
Some students participated in a tambourine parade, made crafts and played with a giant parachute, while baseball legend Carl Erskine taught others how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the harmonica.
“This is your new friend,” Erskine told students about the harmonicas they each received. “You can play so many neat little tunes.”
ACS teacher Diana Nall said the arts awareness day provided students the opportunity to discover something different and unique.
“They like to come here because they get to do extra special arts,” Nall said. “They get to do some of the similar activities at school, but here it’s with different people and a different environment.”
The event was named after P.G. Gray, the son of Anderson University professor and Madison County Special Olympics Director Paul Gray. P.G. Gray had suffered from encephalitis as a result of a high fever, Paul Gray said.
“P.G. loved to come to the university,” Gray said. “He has inspired a lot of our students to pursue professions in working with disabilities. He made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
VSA Arts manager Pam Nicholas said about 380 ACS students spent time learning about the arts at Thursday’s event.
“This gives the children with disabilities an opportunity to work with professional artists,” she said. “It’s such a joyful occasion. They look forward to it.”
The arts teachers benefit from working with special education students, as well, Nicholas said.
“It’s really wonderful to see and learn,” she said. “We’re the ones that are really blessed. They teach us how to treat people with consideration.”
—Aleasha Sandley is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission. Photo credit: Don Knight.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.