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Art Partners Celebrates 20 Years of Service to Community

Art Partners Celebrates 20 Years of Service to Community

Posted: May 4, 2015

As a longtime Buffalo State professor of art education and art therapist, Lucy Andrus understands that art has the power to unlock learning in children with special needs and from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds—children who may have been dismissed in the past.

During her initial research in 1994, Andrus identified two vital community needs: to provide art experiences for children who otherwise received none and to provide teachers in training with more culturally diverse experiences in city schools and communities. Based on prior success in promoting cognitive, affective, psychomotor, and social development in at-risk students through art, Andrus started Art Partners, a collaborative fieldwork initiative that focuses on urban students who have developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and/or have experienced adverse life circumstances such as poverty.

Andrus and students in her Art for Children with Special Learning Needs course began their work at Buffalo P.S. 91 BUILD Academy in 1995. They have since provided service to five other Buffalo schools as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Art Partners continues to thrive as a service-learning program. It will be recognized with two awards during the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC) Celebration of Service on Tuesday, May 5, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Campbell Student Union Social Hall. The event is free, open to the public, and will include the presentation of 12 awards.

McKinley High School will receive the Outstanding Community Partner Award. Since 1999, two special educators at McKinley have been host teachers for Art Partners. In recent years, they also have brought students with developmental disabilities to Buffalo State once a week to work with Andrus and her art education and art therapy students. The teens have explored myriad concepts through art, from self-awareness to social activism. Samples of the students’ artwork are on display on Upton Hall’s fourth floor.

“The awards committee wanted to recognize both the Art Partner participants and the McKinley High School teachers who have gone above and beyond their job duties as educators,” said Laura Hill Rao, VSLC coordinator.  

Additionally, Art Partners student volunteer, Margaret (Maggie) Giamo will receive the Outstanding Service-Learning and Academic Learning Connection Award.

Andrus nominated Giamo, writing, “Maggie was an outstanding student and volunteer—totally committed and enthusiastic about class as well as working with our McKinley teens…Maggie made clear and obvious connections between class and fieldwork learning, articulating these insights and applications back in our classroom discussion…she is one of those rare gems that we professors dream of having in class as well as assisting with such a fieldwork project as Art Partners.”

Reflecting back on the past 20 years with Art Partners, Andrus said she is grateful to all the students who have participated and to the experience itself. The rewards have been immeasurable.

“The feeling we’d have driving back from a session has been one of pure gratitude” Andrus said. “It’s been a blessing for me to be able to make a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Pictured top: Art Education student-teachers provide a caring presence as they sharpen their pedagogical skills.

Pictured center: Lucy Andrus, professor of art education, with student.

Pictured bottom: Community Message Mural made by second graders in Art Partners. 

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