HeartShare Art Share

One is accustomed to seeing students bustling to and from NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering buildings surrounding MetroTech Commons. In early July, however, to everyone’s surprise and delight, passers-by were met instead by a colorful art exhibit presented by the HeartShare Human Services of New York

ArtShare for HeartShare features artwork created by children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The School of Engineering exhibit is part of a larger collaboration between the university and HeartShare’s Developmental Disabilities Division. In particular, Family Support Coordinator, Daniel K. Chan, worked tirelessly under HeartShare to showcase the artists’ talents and creative abilities and received enthusiastic support thanks to a partnership with NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Technology, Culture and Society Professor Allan B. Goldstein, and the Dean of Engineering, Katepalli R. Sreenivasan.

Goldstein, who teaches a Disabilities Studies course, explains, “this is something that I’ve wanted to do since I got here in 2005.” Having experience with disability in his personal life, Goldstein hopes that his classes and the ArtShare for HeartShare, “provide a platform for inclusion.” In many ways, society has created the idea of disability and has ultimately created the problem of exclusion. By displaying successful forms of self-expression, such as the art show in 2 MetroTech, Goldstein wants people to understand that, “being different is okay, and being different doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed.”

Chan believes unintentional exclusion is a major issue that is addressed through programs such as ArtShare for HeartShare. In many cases, people are, “not seeing the person, but are just seeing the wheelchair,” agrees Goldstein. However, there has been a lot of successful feedback from the community regarding the artwork. By getting some recognition, artists have been able to sell their work. They collect half of the profit and the other half goes back into the program for supplies and materials. When asked what the artists get out of the experience, Chan replies, saying, “They get really excited. But, as much as this is for the artists, the families sometimes get a bit more out of it.” Not only are the artists becoming empowered in that they have the possibility of some kind of monetary reward, but families and the people around them get to see these individuals in a whole new light.

Due to the success of the program here on campus, HeartShare recently announced in a press release that they will be collaborating further with the university. In Fall 2014, the ABILITY Lab will house a photography workshop, which will accommodate approximately 10 NYU School of Engineering students and 10 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who participate in HeartShare’s Brooklyn Day Habilitation Program in Downtown Brooklyn.