The Vision for The Art as Vocation Program came to me quite by happenstance. About three and one-half years (3 ½ ) ago, my son Ezra was diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. The conditions required hospitalization for him lasting approximately a year. During that time as I prayed for his recovery and maintained around-the-clock diligence, I had several opportunities to reflect upon our journey together.
Since the time of Ezra being diagnosed with Down Syndrome eighteen years ago, and the subsequent abandonment of our relationship by his mother, Ezra had been raised in a single-parent household by a father who, because of Ezra's needs decided to forego a legal career, and return to his roots as an artist.
Ezra has been exposed to visual art and music all of his life. At various stages of the professional resurrection of my art career, art was used as an instructional instrument whereby Ezra was taught not only color, but his alphabets, and numbers as well.
Upon noticing Ezra's responses to such, art was used to expand his vocabulary, and phonic sensibilities. Around the time that Ezra was approximately eight years old, one of my cousins who also has a daughter with Down Syndrome, and whose functioning level was a little more severe than Ezra's contacted me. She was perplexed at how I got Ezra to respond in various ways as he had shown. I told her that I felt that it was mostly Ezra's response to art, and that he was always with me in various artistic endeavors, and that I used art at every occasion to teach other things. She decided to heed my advice to such, and give some simple measures I proposed to her a try. I did not hear from my cousin for over a year, however, at the funeral of another relative we spoke and she told me of her daughters progress in some areas using the methods I told her about. I was very delighted to know that I had helped with her daughter's development.
It was not until while Ezra was ill and I at his bedside I began to recall all of the intimate moments Ezra and I shared together, and how art somehow solidified the bond between he and I. As I said my prayers one day, I asked GOD to help me use my talents to help others with Special Needs, and to advocate for these individuals in the artistic mainstream.
Soon Ezra's health improved, and we began to embark again upon as normal a life as we could have, despite some residual medical side-effects associated with his lengthy illness. During this time, Mayor Bill White sent me an invitation to his second inaugural address at which time he prompted citizens of Houston to use their talents to help others in our community who are less fortunate, and maybe not as physically endowed as those of us who are. As I listened intently, it is as if he was reading my mind and knew what was in my heart.
From the time of the adjournment, as I walked to my car, I was determined to do just that, start a professional art program for individuals with Special Needs. But, I had no money to begin to help others through the visual art. I did however, pitch my ideas to established community-based organizations such as Down Syndrome Association of Houston and the Community Artists' Collective. Both organizations were receptive to the idea of bringing individuals with Special Needs into the professional artistic mainstream, and who to date continue to be supportive.
The program was formally launched in April 2006, after an Art Show Fundraiser held in my studio. Although a lot of money wasn't raised, community support for such an innovative endeavor was grand.
To date, there are ten students whose ages range from 16 to 32 years old and who have embarked upon the creation of art as a vocation, a way of life, in the hopes that they will be successful in a professional art career.