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Art offers chance to shine for Arc/Achieva clients

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Seton Hill University senior art therapy major Katie Gablick receives a hug from ACHIEVA client Diann Santo as Seton Hill University senior art therapy major Victoria Kasaczun looks on during a certificate presentation, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, following an art show featuring the works of ACHIEVA clients who participated in an art program facilitated by SHU art therapy students. Gablick and Kasaczun served as facilitators of the new initiative that brought nine clients to the Seton Hill Arts Center for weekly art classes.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
ACHIEVA client Shelly Kunic reacts while holding one of her artworks, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during an art show featuring the works of ACHIEVA clients who participated in an art program facilitated by Seton Hill University art therapy students. SHU students Victoria Kasaczun and Katie Gablick served as facilitators of the new initiative that brought nine clients to the Seton Hill Arts Center for weekly art classes.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
ACHIEVA staff member Meg Brecht receives a hug from ACHIEVA client Gayle Hartin, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during an art show featuring the works of ACHIEVA clients who participated in an art program facilitated by Seton Hill University art therapy students. SHU students Victoria Kasaczun and Katie Gablick served as facilitators of the new initiative that brought nine clients to the Seton Hill Arts Center for weekly art classes.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Seton Hill University faculty member Dana Elmendorf MA, ATR-BC, LPC admires the artwork of ACHIEVA client Jill Staney, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during an art show featuring the works of ACHIEVA clients who participated in an art program facilitated by SHU art therapy students. SHU students Victoria Kasaczun and Katie Gablick served as facilitators of the new initiative that brought nine clients to the Seton Hill Arts Center for weekly art classes.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
ACHIEVA client Tammi Reed admires artwork, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during an art show featuring the works of ACHIEVA clients who participated in an art program facilitated by Seton Hill University art therapy students. SHU students Victoria Kasaczun and Katie Gablick served as facilitators of the new initiative that brought nine clients to the Seton Hill Arts Center for weekly art classes.

Men and women from The Arc of Westmore­land couldn't hide their smiles Tuesday as they showed off their artwork — works at Seton Hill University's Arts Center that ranged from abstract pieces and magazine collages to a kiln-fired hot dog sculpture.

Nine clients at Achieva, a nonprofit organization that provides lifelong support for people with intellectual disabilities, worked through a partnership with Seton Hill University and took part in a series of workshops with two art therapy students. Their work culminated in an art show for fellow clients and parents.

“We gave them the prompts, but they had free rein to do what they wanted within that structure,” said senior Victoria Kasaczun, 21.

This fall, Kasaczun and fellow senior Katie Gablick worked with Achieva clients as part of their senior capstone project. Rather than visit the Arc of Westmore­land site on Donohoe Road in Hempfield, clients came to the university in Greensburg each week.

“It made us think a little more creatively,” said Gablick, 22, of Lower Burrell. “I think having them off-site gave us that chance to do some more creative things.”

Kasaczun and Gablick organized art-related warm-up exercises, projects and an outdoor day in the art yard at the Otterman Street center. The group also took trips off campus.

Arc officials assessed clients to find a group interested in art, according to Sharon Greene, Arc/Achieva executive administrator.

“The whole purpose was to get rid of the ‘bricks-and-mortar' focus of disability learning taking place inside,” Greene said.

The organization is placing emphasis on moving away from “sheltered workshops,” said Eric Welsh, Achieva's vice president for vocational supports.

“What we're trying to do is get people outside our facilities and into the community, whether it's through jobs or opportunities like this,” he said.

The group's final project was two large art canvases made of interlocking puzzle pieces.

Kasaczun said the experience gave her a new perspective on her future in art therapy.

“Once I graduate, I don't know what population I'll want to work with, and initially I wasn't sure if this specific group was the right one for me,” she said. “But it's been really enjoyable, and their enthusiasm helped me give my best effort every time we got together.”

Welsh said Achieva officials hope to continue the program with another group of art-inclined clients.

“We'd like to pick it back up in the fall and maybe look into doing this with other schools and universities,” he said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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