Maggi Cummings is an art teacher at Hunters Creek Elementary, dedicated to helping her students express themselves through artistic creativity. Recently, Cummings taught students about the importance of inclusivity by partnering with Sandal Gap Studio to bring Close the Gap to Hunters Creek.
Sandal Gap Studio is a local nonprofit organization that promotes inclusion through art. As an art studio, they bring together artists with special needs and actively strive to connect society with individuals with disabilities.
The organization was founded by Lisa Eicher when she discovered she needed a place to display her daughter Sevy's art. Sevy has special needs. Together with her husband and another daughter, Ace, a former Hunters Creek student, they set out to create a space where "art is used as the common language among the verbal and non-verbal."
"Our goal is to expose students to people who are different from them," said Eicher. "We strive to instill in them the beauty of inclusion to help them become understanding and accepting adults."
Sandal Gap Studio's new program, Close the Gap, brings artists and third graders together for a week during their scheduled art time. The students are paired with artists and work on a project collaboratively. During this time, students have the opportunity to ask questions and get to know the artists. Program projects are structured to encourage the participation of all students.
Hunters Creek students recently created colorful art pieces with the Sandal Gap artists' direction. Finished designs were compiled and used to create one large masterpiece for display at the campus. The school's third graders were not the only ones who benefited from the program. APPLE and Life Skills students participated in the Close the Gap program activity as well.
Sandal Gap Studio works with elementary schools across the country to bring Close the Gap to as many students as possible.
“Without Close the Gap I would have never met my new friends Gianni and DJ. They are really inspiring and fun to be around,” said James, a participating third grade student. “This experience was one of the coolest things I have ever done!”
The program's goal is to be part of every third grade classroom in the United States.
"I am beyond grateful to have had Close the Gap be part of our art class," said Cummings. "This experience has made our students more aware and comfortable with individuals with special needs. It was astounding to see them connecting through art."
View the photo album to see students in action!