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Express yourself at Art Aviators, with clay

April 21, 2016 // by Elizabeth Miron

Families who throw together, grow together. That's the idea behind MOCA Jacksonville's Art Aviators Family Workshops.

MOCA's beloved outreach program is now available to families. Art Aviators is an educational initiative designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other exceptionalities. Guests who participate in the Art Aviators Family Workshops participate in art-making activities that enable them to foster new means of self-expression and communication.

Art Aviators Clay Wheel Throwing b
Art Aviators students throw clay on wheels at MOCA Jacksonville. Image courtesy of Ingid Damiani.

Students who register for an Art Aviators Family Workshop enjoy ninety minutes at the Museum. Workshops begin at 10 a.m. before MOCA opens, allowing students and their families to enjoy and explore without interruption from other guests and while the Museum is still quiet. Registration is limited to fifteen students, allowing a small MOCA educator-to-student ratio. Museum educators guide families to a fifth floor classroom where activities such as painting, drawing, collage, jewelry, and ceramics await.

One of our favorite activities to do with students (and parents love it, too!) is wheel throwing. Most people rarely get a chance to throw clay on a wheel, but we open up the wheels whenever possible, especially for Art Aviators. Wheel throwing enhances so many therapeutic outcomes:

  • Increase sensory integration through the feel of the wet clay.
  • Increase verbal communication skills by encouraging discussion about how the clay feels and how to manipulate the shapes.
  • Decrease anxiety and increase focus by concentrating attention on creating a circular form on the wheel.
Art Aviators Clay Wheel Throwing c
Wheel throwing enhances so many therapeutic outcomes, such as increasing sensory integration through the feel of the wet clay. Image courtesy of Ingid Damiani.
Art Aviators Clay Wheel Throwing d
Students learn to decrease anxiety and increase focus by concentrating attention on creating a circular form on the wheel. Image courtesy of Ingrid Damiani.

In a New York Times article “Pottery as Therapy: A Workshop to Revive Skills,” Barbara Delatiner writes about Hands on Clay, touted as the first pottery studio in the state of New York for physically challenged adults and children. Founder Randy Blume states, “I realized that when you focus just on the clay, you're distracted from your problems, especially if you're in distress. Best of all, clay is magical. There is no right or wrong. Whatever you produce helps increase a feeling of self-worth.”

Did I mention wheel throwing is fun? A lot of fun!

Reception to the workshops has been great. Here are a few of the reactions from our families:

  • “He was very proud of himself. We framed and hung his tree painting. He was very excited!”
  • “My son loves the instructors and the way he interacts with them while gaining this wonderful experience with art is most memorable. It is special! Thank you for giving my son this opportunity.”
  • “He really enjoyed trying new things with the help of the instructor. He was able to be calm and stay on task to finish an art project.”

Our next workshops are April 23 and August 27. The cost is $20 per student and includes admission for the student and two accompanying adults, supplies, and facilitation with MOCA educators. We hope to see you there! 

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