Friday, May 31, 2013

Appreciating the Arts

I had a crazy, old aunt.

Unlike in the movies, my aunt wasn’t a cheek-pinching, gushing, “come kiss your dear auntie” type. She was a flowing kaftan-wearing, long cigarette-smoking, red lipstick and nail polish type. She wore her dark hair wrapped in a loose bun at the back of her head and always had something  - chopsticks, paintbrushes, a conductor’s wand – poking through the messy knot of hair. She sat with her legs apart, elbows on her knees and laughed a manly laugh, loud, uninhibited, with her head thrown back. Her conversations were rich with things exotic to young girls, things like European culture, the newest ballerina from Romania, and her friendship with the Kennedys.

She was bold, beautiful and, still to this day, the most eccentric person I’ve ever met in my life. She was an artist.

My aunt loved all things creative. As the pianist for the Milwaukee Ballet, her days were filled with classical music, orchestras, and graceful, long-limbed dancers rehearsing for the evening’s performance. Her nights, when not at the ballet, were spent in front of an easel covering canvas after canvas in oils until the dabs and strokes and swirls of color resembled the extravagant visions in her head. 

Out of all her nieces and nephews, I was her favorite. As a pre-schooler, I felt special to have her attention. I was the little girl wearing new tights sitting alone in the velvet-covered chair right above the orchestra pit so she could keep her eye on me while she played for the ballet. I was the girl she lifted in her arms to touch the frame of one of her many paintings as they hung in the grand halls of the PAC. I splashed around in kiddie pools with Yuri and Peter and Romney, world-renowned dancers invited over to meet her “little Susie.”

As a school girl, I was aggravated to be her favorite. She singled me out for lessons in oil painting and piano when all I wanted to do at the time was learn the latest dance moves and see the current movies so I could fit in better with my classmates. She pushed my parents to enroll me in ballet class when other kids my age were learning to break dance.

As a teenager, I was embarrassed to be her favorite. Why did she buy me a portfolio of all the classical works of art or a book of poetry when all I wanted was a boom box? Why did she get me strange jewelry from Russia when all the other girls were wearing sets of multi-colored rubber bracelets? Why did she have to listen to opera with her car windows wide open so the whole neighborhood could hear how strange she was?

Now as an adult, I realize how blessed I was to be her favorite. Although the lessons in oil painting and piano didn’t stick, a love of the arts took root and matured throughout the years. I learned to appreciate all forms of art, from the whimsical to the macabre, from the surreal to the painfully real. I don’t necessarily like each piece I experience, but each one forces me to think, to feel, to form my own opinions.

Why do I like this sculpture, or why don’t I like it?

What is the artist saying through this dance?

What is this oil painting saying to me?

Do I think the artist took this photograph from a place of joy, or anger, or sorrow?

Is the artist's use of color or texture or space or form pleasing to me?

Creating art is a revealing form of expression. Bits of the artist, hidden bits, come out in the making. Appreciating art is a journey of discovery – of God, of Creation, of others, of self. 

This semester, I was excited to hear that our volunteers, Steve & Sandy Jensen, offered an Art Appreciation class to our college students.  What a beautiful way for these young people to learn more about their Creator, more about the people around them, and more about themselves as they seek to live a life of independence! 

I was planning to write a blog based on some facts Steve told me about the class and the field trip, but his email was so well-written, and so clearly showed his heart, that I decided to use it in its entirety.

"Initially, after being approved as volunteers, Sandy and I were assigned as tutors in study hall.  We developed a few one on one relationships with students, while we only had brief encounters with several others.  When study hall and homework expectations were re-conceptualized, we prayerfully considered how we could best serve the students and the college.

While college for us is a distance past, we still remember how much choir and the arts not only supplemented our education, but also gave us an outlet that balanced out the academic courses.  There is something refreshing about ending your school day with an elective that also allows you to be expressive.  We approached the college about the possibility of offering a choir once a week.  This was met with much support and enthusiasm for the second semester of 2011-2012 and through the entire current year.

When the fall semester of 2012 began, I came to the realization that there may be students who are not musically inclined who might be interested rather in the visual arts.  I approached the staff at the college, and it was mutually decided to offer a field trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum during the fall semester.  This was met with good response, and the trip was well received.

It was decided at that time to pursue the possibilities of a second trip in the Spring 2013 semester, this time to the Chicago Art Museum.  Recalling the benefit of Art Appreciation classes in high school and college, I felt it would enhance the experience to offer an Art Appreciation course that would be a pre-requisite for the field trip to Chicago.

Nine students signed up initially with eight finishing the course.  The classes met once a month on Sunday evenings and were well attended.  The introduction included reflecting on our Lord God Creator as the ultimate Artist, demonstrated in everything He created for our blessing and pleasure. 

The students had various previous exposures to Art, but all were enthusiastic about their particular passions and preferences.  Through the use of video and the internet, we attempted to give the students a broad exposure as to what is considered Art.  Once this was established, we focused on a few of the most popular genres, most notably Ancient, Classical, Renaissance, Impressionism, and Modern.  Specific artists that were most notable in their contribution to the evolving concepts of art and artists that are heavily represented in the Chicago Art Museum were also targeted to be presented in more detail.  Needless to say, each class hour went quickly, but as time went by a growing appreciation of God-given creative abilities and talent occurred in the hearts and minds of the students.

The semester culminated in the Chicago Field Trip on Memorial Day, 2013.  Six students were able to attend, and we were so proud of each one, not only in their mature behavior in everything from purchasing their own admission tickets to compromising on which exhibits would be a priority, but also in their recall of artists and genres and techniques. 

After a smooth and safe trip to Chicago in the school van driven by the Dean of Shepherds College, Angela Houk, the day started with a walking tour of Millennium Park.   

Then the students waited patiently in line for about 20 minutes just to be admitted to the building. 

Then began the Art tour which included, but was not limited to, paperweights, miniatures, photography, mosaics, statuary, Asian, Greek, Roman, architecture, furniture design, textiles, as well as the anticipated genres listed earlier. 

The students even learned that the huge outdoor amphitheater in Millennium Park has to be considered a work of art as it is too tall a building to be otherwise allowed in the park.

Enthusiasm ran high despite sore feet and tired bodies, and the students opted to go one more hour to make sure we saw the American Wing which included Grant Wood's American Gothic. 

The trip was capped off with a drive by Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park and an early supper at the two-storied McDonald's in downtown Chicago.   

Memorial Day proved to be a perfect day to travel as traffic was light and before we knew it, we were safely home, having been enriched and awed by the creative abilities of so many."


Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Office: Your Life Is a Mosaic Masterpiece

The following blog is from the heart of Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant to Shepherds College

A note to our upcoming graduates:

 Welcome, upcoming graduates, or graduands as Webster defines you prior to graduation—to your new adventure, and possibly a new church, new apartment, neighborhood, community—and your next big step—Appropriate Independence!  One season of your life comes to a close as a new one begins.  They combine like mosaic pieces to form a stained glass picture, a picture of who you are.  So here it comes, what you have all waited for—the answer to the big question, “What will you do 'after graduation?'"

Fill in the blanks:  My name is  ______________________________________.
I will live in  ______________________________________________.
God wired me for (name a skill/task)____________________________________, 
so every day I can serve God at (name a company, organization or church)_____________________________________ by (name an action) _______________________________________________________________.

And so, your mosaic takes shape. In reality, it began taking shape before you were born, with your parents and siblings, where God placed you at birth: what country, what state, what neighborhood, and what era in history. None of these factors were in your control.  They were the first gifts God gave you, the core of who you were to become.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb…My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place....Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13, 15-16)

God has had a plan, and He has been adding pieces to your mosaic to create you, me, and everyone in the world—you are His masterpiece from before time began.

 “For you are his workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God planned before you were born to be your way of life.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

Your life is reflected in all the pieces.  Blue, violet, green, gold—all the colors of the rainbow featuring the seasons and stages of life and all the people and experiences who have shaped and influenced you.  Bright yellows and gleaming whites for all of the good and happy times, the triumphs and celebrations.  They are highlighted even more so because of the contrast of the dark pieces of glass: the challenges, the sadness and grief that make you stronger and more compassionate.  Both are necessary to keep life in balance.

I hope you will cherish all seasons for what they offer.  Appreciate the rain as well as the sunshine; appreciate every day and each shard of colored glass as part of the masterful mosaic He is creating for His glory through you.   

No matter how you look at it, you are a magnificent and beautiful masterpiece. 

CONGRATULATIONS, 3rd year students—you made it to the Shepherds College finish line!

Thank you to Sierra for this beautiful "mosaic" of all our graduates!

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Teacher Tuesday: Learning with Legos

I have fun memories of Legos from my childhood.

My siblings and I would lay out every Fisher-Price Little People house, school and business we owned on the floor of the living room to form a neighborhood. After determining what our mini community was lacking - like roads, trees, a McDonalds, and a public swimming pool – we proceeded to dump out tens of thousands of multi-colored bricks, planks, gears and heads to finish our urban development.  Legos occupied us for days.

As a parent, my memories of Legos are somewhat less fond. Those blasted little pieces of interlocking plastic are expensive! Not to mention they clog toilets, break garbage disposals, fit up noses, hide in carpets, and can be easily launched across the room by frustrated little kids… and maybe their mom.

I recently learned of a new use for Legos, one that puts them solidly back on my “Like” list.

A few weeks ago, Scott and Jenny Nash visited campus to train our faculty and staff. One of the topics covered was the creative use of Legos in the classroom.

Miss Luchterhand teaches Visualizing and Verbalizing, a curriculum developed by Lindamood-Bell to enhance students’ ability to mentally visualize what they read and then answer higher order thinking questions.  She usually has the students draw pictures of a sentence to make sure they’re visualizing correctly, but after the Nash’s training, in the last unit Miss Luchterhand decided to have the students work with Legos instead.

In her words, “It was fabulous!”

The students loved the experience, and Miss Luchterhand enjoyed seeing how creative each one could be using the same material.

Here is the pictorial debut of Black Death, visualized and verbalized by Alex and Brandyn:


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Laurel's Visual Resume

Thank you to Brian Canright, Lead Recruiter/Transition Coordinator, for writing today's blog.

As the Transition Coordinator, I am looking to provide, and continuously improve upon, the resources we provide our graduates to improve employment outcomes. One such tool I have been piloting the past few weeks is the visual (or video) resume. Research suggests that, for adults with disabilities, this practice increases the likelihood of employment. The primary reason is that a prospective employer can visualize the potential employee competently carrying out tasks which are relevant to the position they are seeking to fill. Though the paper resume and references are equally important for securing a job, the visual resume adds value to the overall portfolio. The video can be linked to the resume in the form of a QR code or as a website link. Additionally, a student can download the visual resume and burn it to a DVD to carry with them to interviews.

The following example is a 2 and a ½ minute visual resume that was shot on Wednesday, May 22nd, over the course of two hours of Laurel Arnold’s internship at Country Rose Bakery and CafĂ©. I only used an iPad mini and the whole project was completed in less than three hours, including the editing.  


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