I was recently asked to review Angel Boy Art which is a non-profit organization that hosts an online gallery for kids with special needs to show off and/or sell their masterpieces. I was touched by mission statement of this organization which is as follows:
Angel Boy Art has three main goals: To help children with special differences flourish, communicate and express themselves through art; To raise money for special needs children and their families by selling their art; and To raise public awareness about special needs children and break down the stigma that a handicapped child cannot communicate.
I spoke with Sara Vitale, founder of the organization, and she had this to say about her project, “Many special needs children have difficulty communicating in the standard ways. Art is a universal language that everyone can understand. Special needs kids flourish when they get involved in art for many reasons. First, it provides physical and occupational therapy that the child wants to do. Many times getting a child with physical limitations to stretch is difficult because the child is resistant to having to work. Art eliminates that issue as the child strives to reach a little further because they want to. Completing an art project gives a special needs child a sense of accomplishment and it is wonderful to see how proud they are of their creations. The color choices alone are a way for the child to communicate, and as they gain experience, their art begins to tell stories they could not otherwise share.”
When asked to elaborate on the mission statement’s third goal, to break down stigmas about special children, Sara went on to say, “It is important for people in the community to see the beautiful creations created by special young artists. There are many stigmas about children with handicaps that can be broken down through the beauty of art. One thing the art does is it gives people who are not sure how to approach a handicapped child a way in. By talking with the parents about the child’s art they can learn about the child’s disability in a natural way.”
This unique art gallery for children with special needs was founded in 2006 because of a special young artist named Louis Angelo. When Louie was ten months old he began painting as part of his physical therapy. It soon became clear that the painting was not only good physical therapy, but also a means of communication and building confidence.
Louie is the original Angel Boy Artist. He has complex medical issues including severe arthrogryposis, skeletal dysplasia, tracheostomy, feeding tube and a nervous system disorder which severely limits his mobility and confines him to a wheelchair. His mother began painting with him when he was about ten months old. He uses strips of fabric and velcro to strap the paint brush around his arm to help him hang on to it. He loves painting and especially loves to put a blob of paint down and then scratch it with his fingers and you will see this trademark in every painting he does….at least every one so far!
Louie’s mom is also the founder of the gallery and an artist herself. She says, “The painting is a great form of exercise for Louie. It helps him gain range of motion and control of his upper extremities and he is motivated to push himself because he enjoys it so much. It is so wonderful to see how proud he is of himself after creating a masterpiece! His art is also a form of communication. He has a very picky eye and insists on choosing his own colors which he does by pointing to the color he wants. Louie loves to feel the paint and will often paint his own hands and face! Don’t worry, it’s non-toxic!”
All special young artists are encouraged to join this wonderful organization, and it will never cost them a penny.