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Big Rapids Nonprofit Gives Opportunity Students With Disabilities

Artworks in Big Rapids is giving students and adults who are moderately cognitive impaired a big opportunity.

“One of the things we strive to do here at Artworks, is to serve underserved populations, and they most certainly are one of those,” said Heidi Lloyd, Artworks Education Director.

The nonprofit works with students from the Mecosta-Osceola Education Center and Hope Network to teach them how to make art.

“This was a program we had always wanted to do, but we didn’t have an instructor to really get it up and off the ground,” said Ruth Vermeer, an Artworks Instructor. “When that became an option, I just said, ‘I want to do that.’” 

 Artworks meets with students twice a month each year. Their newest showcase, “Modern Masters And More,” displays artwork inspired by famous artists the students created. 

“It’s a very rewarding program,” said Lloyd. “When we do the reception and you see them come in and you see their artwork up, you see the smiles… it just gives them a sense of purpose, really.”

 Not only does it have an impact on the students, but the teachers and staff, as well.

“Oh my gosh. They get the joy of doing this but we just feel like we get so much more out of it than them,” said Vermeer. “We have built relationships with these people for the last five years and know them.”

Even in the early days of the pandemic, ArtWorks continued the program. 

“During COVID we were actually able to meet in the park, which was wonderful,” said Vermeer. “We make accommodations for however we need to.”

 The nonprofit said the students often find ways to relate to the artwork.

“We love them, and it’s just so fun to see them,” said Vermeer. “Every week it’s like, ‘hey – how are you?’ It’s not only relationships that we build with them, but it’s a quality of life thing that we’re offering them. That’s the beauty of this program.” 

The free display will be available until January 27th.