Adults with disabilities create, learn through art class

Toni stared intently at her collage. She was trying to figure out how to fit one last picture onto the paper. It was packed with photos of dogs.

To her right, Michael was finishing his fall-themed piece. He added pictures of pumpkin and pecan pie.

Marion Bloomfield works with a SkillQuest artist on their most recent work. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Marion Bloomfield works with a SkillQuest artist on their most recent work. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

Toni and Michael are two of the artists who have work on display at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art as members of SkillQuest, a program for adults with intellectual disabilities. The service, which is run through the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services, provides activities such as music, sports, movies and art to more than 120 participants.

Marion Bloomfield, a clinician who runs the art department for SkillQuest and has been with the program since 1996, said art brings a variety of benefits.

“There’s a lot of personal gratification for doing something and seeing the end result,” she said. “They can see, ‘Wow, my choice makes a difference,’ or, ‘My hands make a difference. I did this. I moved this. I touched that. I chose this.’ And then they can see the results. There’s a lot of satisfaction in it. There’s a lot of self-esteem building.”

Through art classes, SkillQuest participants also learn communication and social skills. Many of the pieces featured in this year’s display at the museum of contemporary art are group projects, including mosaics.

The art classes also help those who are otherwise sedentary during the rest of their day.

“They’re stretching, they’re moving, they’re reaching and they’re communicating,” Bloomfield said.

There are two main classes — one in the morning and one in the afternoon on Mondays — that last about an hour and a half each. Bloomfield and her two art staff members, Sandra Bly and Daniel Hart, help the artists with their creations. They help paint pictures, design collages and create pottery with the help of Art Studio on the Boulevard, a Virginia Beach business.

The SkillQuest display will be at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art until Nov. 16. The exhibit will end with a reception and auction of the pieces.

Until then, many of the artists behind the projects are hard at work making last-minute pieces they might want to display, like the collages they were creating Monday.

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