SNAP students strive for independence

Kim Wing is painting a flower. She plays with different colors to see which ones work well together. She tries the different sized brushes, bleeds the colors together. She shows the picture to her instructor Bonne Smith.

“I was thinking place mats,” Wing says.

Wing, after all, is not just painting a flower to paint a flower. She’s painting in the hopes that her art eventually will turn a profit.

Wing is one of the students enrolled in “Enterprize,” an artisan project conducted by Special Needs Advocacy Parents (SNAP) for Clallam County Health and Human Services.

The program stems from another program, “Voyagers,” that taught art as well as science. The participants couldn’t have cared less about the science but they loved painting, sculpting pottery and working with photography.

SNAP’s mission is twofold. It is a support network for developmentally disabled individuals and their families and it strives to enhance participants’ independence — and what’s more independent than creating your own business?

“Enterprize was born out of the next step of the learning process, becoming an artisan. They had to have another place to go,” Smith said. “What we hope that Enterprize will do is provide them with the opportunity to be an entrepreneur with art.”

Take Chris Millar for example. Millar has been working with stained glass and copper wire to create mosaic artworks. His latest is a picture of a Sequim cactus. Millar is planning to set up a Web site displaying his work. When asked how he’d feel if he sold a piece, Millar said, “I haven’t sold any yet, but yeah, it’d be cool.”

Millar is ahead of the game. Many of Enterprize’s students are still honing their crafts, including Garet Bonham, a photographer. Bonham says his favorite things to photograph are animals, birds especially. Now he’s learning how to use the computer program Photoshop to manipulate and sharpen his images.

According to Smith, not only is it a matter of building independence, but confidence as well.

“I had one of my students who felt like he couldn’t do anything right, that his art wasn’t anything at all that was acceptable, and he’s turned out some incredible pieces,” Smith said, recalling how surprised and delighted the man became when she told him how wonderful his artwork was.

”I think what we have are a lot of people with developmental disabilities that have been shuffled around a lot in their lives, especially the ones that live in the group homes. By participating in our programs, they’re able to get this worthiness of ‘Yeah, you deserve the same as everybody else in our community.’ There’s a huge amount of confidence gained,” Smith said.

SNAP will have a booth at the Lavender Festival this year where they will sell handmade pottery magnets and hanging flower pots, as well as postcards with paintings made by SNAP students.

“To be part of the community means that you’re included in the community, but that also means that you understand what inclusion is. Our participants have to be as accepting of people in the community as they can be,” Smith said.
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