Individuals in the metro Detroit area with intellectual or developmental disabilities and an interest in art, fashion or fashion design are encouraged to take part in an ongoing course at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.
The nine-week “Fashion Fridays & Wearable Art” course, which kicked off July 8, is being offered at CCS in partnership with Gesher Human Services (formerly JVS + Kadima) through the nonprofit organization’s multi-disciplinary arts program, Creative Expressions.
Students in the program are participants in Choices, a Creative Expressions program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All the concepts for Creative Expressions programs are entirely based on the interest of participants, says program director Craig Nowak.
“Many participants showed an interest and talked about fashion,” Nowak said. “The staff pushed the idea to me and I contacted our partners at CCS.”
The courses are being taught by Joye Ofei, master staff artist at the Community Arts Partnership of CCS. Participants can sign up for however many classes they wish to participate in. So far classes have held about eight to 12 students with the hopes of reaching 30 by the end of the program.
“We wanted to encourage creativity with a focus on fashion for our Choices members and teaming up with the professional artists at CCS gave us a wonderful opportunity to do just that,” said Nowak. “Designing clothes and accessories is a unique way to express your style and we know it will give our members confidence and pride, while learning new skills for self-expression.”
While each week offers a new garment or accessory, the overall theme is African inspired designs and patterns. So far participants have been able to design and create headpieces and shrouds or scarves.
“There’s a great deal of fabrics that have thousands of year old patterns and colors found in Africa,” said Larry Lunsford, assistant director for Education and Outreach for Community Arts Partnership at CCS. “You should see the smiles on the participants as they go through the course.”
Garments are fitted to the artist’s measurements so they can be worn once the program is over.
This is the first fashion and wearable art class Gesher has hosted with CCS. In the coming weeks students are scheduled to create tote bags, purses, necklaces, wrist, ankle and elbow arm bands from leather, leather sandals and adinkra symbols from Ghana, Africa .
At the end of the nine-week course, participants have the opportunity to take part in a fashion show to display their work.
A member of the Choices program, Sally Greco has always appreciated art and was excited to sign up for the class.
Each week she can be found at the wearable arts class working on a new project. So far her favorite piece has been designing a decorative headdress.
“I like art,” said Greco. “I have a big book called ‘1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die’ that talks about artists and their biographies that I like.”
In the past Greco learned to make pillowcases from her mom and enjoys drawing in the Choices space at Gesher.
“Students show pride in their work through the desire to share their finished artwork with others in the class and those at home,” said Lunsford.
Creative Expressions programs are offered year-round, including an ongoing music program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a theater program with Matrix Theater Company and a dance program with the Detroit Opera House.
For more information about Gesher Human Services, visit jvshumanservices.org. For more information about Creative Expressions, a Gesher program, visit shopcreativeexpressions.com.