Art program serves people with developmental disabilities

September 7, 2008 7:45:10 AM PDT
"Live, Learn, Work and Play" is the philosophy of a not-for-profit organization called Search Inc. They have been providing services to adults with disabilities since 1968. Not many people know they exist until now. Search Inc. provides a wide range of community living and employment services to 450 adults with developmental disabilities in the Chicago area.

Their mission is to create a world where people with developmental disabilities live, learn, work and play alongside everyone else. The first step is through their visibility arts program.

"One of the big emphas(es) for our art program is, take it to the community, show it to the community, share it with the community," said John Lipscomb, CEO.

After 40 years, Search Inc. is getting the word out to the public.

"Admittedly, we've been flying below the radar. That's sort of our style to just do the work," said Lipscomb. "Our mission is to do and not to be very public about it. But we are kind of coming up for air a little bit right now."

Visarts' artists make, show and sell their work in local venues all across the Chicagoland area. They also get the chance to experience the work of other artists.

Tina Zemen, an artist and facilitator of the program, says she is impressed with many of the artists.

"They have certain challenges with their developmental disabilities. They find that their talent, their creativity will trump that, and then the disability just falls away," said Zemen.

And every day they tend to surprise her, she said.

"They have such a talent and an honest expression that you don't really find with everyone. And they're just real genuine, and it just gives me my own inspiration, too, with things I do in my own life," said Zemen.

The artists sell their own art work. They get to keep all the proceeds from their sales.

"It's very empowering and reinforcing for them to have people appreciate to the extent that they actually pay for it so it's fantastic," said Lipscomb.

Art is kind of a universal level field for people in general.

"People make art out of their spirit and out of their being, and they don't need to have a pedigree for that or any special requirement other than, kind of, motivation to make it and be creative," said Lipscomb.

This is just the beginning. Search is expanding to Mount Prospect with a state-of-the-art day training center, which is expecting to open this fall.

"We've made a decision to sort of let people know who we are and what we're doing. And so it's kind of exciting," said Lipscomb.

Search Inc. plans to also offer filmmaking, photography and performing arts at the new arts center. For more information visit http://searchdc.org/ or call 773-305-5000


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