ASD en route

ASD:en route aims to be a place where we peek into the nuances of how our artistic endeavors come to fruition-often seeding from a conversation, interaction or story. This is a collection of this process, as written by our creative team of instructors who work side by side our resident artists with disabilities everyday. We hope you enjoy....

Maria makes her mark!

Maria is our newest student at The Cultural Education Center for the Arts (CECA).  She began sharing her light with us a few months ago and we are continually captivated by it’s brilliance. 

On her first day, we marveled as she arrived magically steering her motorized wheelchair with her hands in the air.  Her bus driver joked, “It reads her mind!” and Maria shrieked with delight at his sarcasm.  In reality, her steering is controlled by her head rest pads.  (She is a great driver, but has a tendency to speed..)

Maria has a disability which severely limits the control of her body movements, especially her hands.  As a conceptual artist, dancer, and director this can be extremely frustrating, but Maria does not let her disability cloud her abilities.  She communicates her ideas by answering yes and no questions sometimes with head nods, sometimes with a very subtle batting of her long lashes, and sometimes with exuberant vocalizations. 

Observing Maria’s relentless determination daily inspired me to seek alternative methods of art making and communication for her.  One day, after many students had gone home, I was talking to Maria about some successful artists with disabilities.  We watched videos of a wheelchair ice dancer and a paralyzed woman who paints with her mouth.  Maria beamed with delight and I asked her if she would like to try painting with this method sometime.  She gave an exuberant shriek and I promised her we would try the next day.  This was not the best method for Maria, so I did some more research and found a woman who paints with an adaptive device called a head mounted pointer.  I made a makeshift pointer using a fedora hat, a brush, and lots of tape, then held up a clipboard with a picture of a woman wearing sunglasses.  Maria began making marks on the paper with control she had never had before.  She worked slowly and steadily until a shape began to emerge: Maria’s first complete form!  Her smile became a laugh which became one of the most joyful sounds I have ever heard and I held back tears in the warmth of her glow. 

Yesterday, she was able to sign her name for the first time.  All this time she has known how to spell, but has been unable to transfer her knowledge through her hands.  A whole new level of communication is possible now because of this discovery!  Maria now recognizes the potential to express herself more completely without depending on others to ask the right questions.  

I am a Music Instructor for CECA that dabbles in visual art and dance.

Pamela Gartner, Art & Music Instructor

A sample of success, way to go Maria!

Play Me, I’m Yours

    It all started with a piano. A plain, brown nondescript piano that would transform into a modern work of art at the hands of the artists of CECA. In early 2012 we received an invitation to be part of the international project “Play Me, I’m Yours” by British artist Luke Jerram. Over 700 pianos have been installed in public spaces around the world for anyone and everyone to play at will. 30 pianos were destined for the Los Angeles area as part of collaboration between local artists, musicians, and the public. Each piano would become a unique piece of art placed in public places throughout the Southland to be played in unison at noon on April 12th. The pianos would remain available to the public until May 3rd, and then each would be donated to schools, programs, and organizations in need. ASD was selected among many worthy candidates to receive and collaborate on one of the 30 pianos. This is where the journey of the piano and the artists of CECA begin.        

      I have been an art instructor at CECA for almost 2 years. We have experimented with almost every medium from painting, fiber, ceramics to underwater basket weaving (ok, maybe not the underwater basket weaving).Through our experiments in different media I found a special connection between my students and the art of the found object. The beauty of found object art is taking everyday items and turning them on their heads so to speak, finding new purpose for someone else’s trash. This shared love for turning toasters into sculptures and the contents of the kitchen junk drawer into robots inspired the imagination of my students and the design for our piano.

      Painting the piano and covering it with a random assortment of found objects from sets of silverware to plastic animals created an amazing, organic creative process between students and staff. We all left our mark on that old, brown piano. Over the course of a few months of hard work and dedication by my students the piano underwent a metamorphosis of sorts and emerged a bright, playful and conversation sparking piece that would make Marcel Duchamp proud.

Stephanie Escobar, art instructor


A once plain old brown piano gets a fresh coat of aqua

Victoria Kirsch debues Play Me, I’m Yours at the stroke of 12:00pm-along with all of the other pianos throughout Los Angeles.  Our piano was in front of The Warner Grand theatre in San Pedro!

A passer-by sharing her talents with San Pedro!

Follow the Play Me, I’m Yours international exhibitions here;

Watch Out for The Fire!

Ive been a Music Therapist at ASD for 6 years now. It’s been such a joy to learn about the students here discovering their interests and talents, and having the privilege of making unique music together, music that I could have never experienced on my own. I am convinced that Iron Maidens #1 fan is a student at A.R.T. Center. His name is Sergio, but he prefers to be called Maiden in honor of the band. He drew a design for T-shirts that he and I have often coordinated wearing on the same day! He has also given me the nickname “Liz Maiden.” As “Maiden” began to develop his passion for singing the bands songs, his style of singing became contagious throughout A.R.T. Center. The more passion he shared with his peers, the more they began to show interest in Iron Maidens music as well. Because of this, I incorporated this style of music into a songwriting class, co-taught with my Music Therapy Intern, and as a group we wrote a song titled Watch Out for the Fire!”. As the class evolved, students began to sing the chorus of the song throughout the day, and showed excitement for the song. Even the staff began to sing the song, improvising based on the situation, “Watch out for the door!

 The following semester, Maiden recorded the song (staff sang too!) and began working on making a video in a class I co-taught with a drama instructor. Students contributed ideas to the video. How would we portray the story on film? How do we add fire on video, given the fact that we cant actually MAKE a fire to record on film? Where should the party be? What does it look like? Student expressed their ideas, and the instructors used this information to help bring these ideas to life. We were fortunate enough to be able to use a green screen, so we did a majority of our filming with the green screen, using background images and video found online, as well as some video that I filmed outside of program. I wont give too much away. Enjoy watching!

Liz Clarke, Music Therapist


A true labor of love, all sections were pre-recorded piece by piece

A true labor of love, all sections were pre-recorded piece by piece

The duo, Sergio & Liz paying homage to The Temple of the Beast-re-imagined by Sergio himself

The green screen brought so many options…Christy doing her thing to bring “Fire” to life!

The green screen brought so many options…Christy doing her thing to bring “Fire” to life!