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Art As Language

"Access to the arts levels the playing field (VSA, The Kennedy Center, 2010)." This is a core belief that working with VSA International, the international organization for the arts and disabilities has instilled in me.

"Mike, do you like Super Mario?" Smiling and nodding, Mike proceeded to draw me a few more characters including Yoshi and Baby Bowser. For one year together, we drew and talked. We began with lions, giraffe and elephants to conversing about his family. His writing went from 4 to 5 random words to 3 paragraphs about his preferred topics. Mike lives with a form of autism that included significant challenges in producing auditory speech. While drawing and chatting with Mike, I discovered that if I provided a model, he enthusiastically mimicked the model. I worked with our speech therapist and assistive technology department and presented Mike with an iPad equipped with iChat, a PECS based program where Mike could pick out what he wanted to say through pictures. The program strung the pictures together and produced phrase and sentence models for Mike. Mike developed his own ideas and thoughts, then verbalized them.

Dr. Janet Hart Heinicke, my mentor challenged me with this notion: "The artist must connect with her community." This spark propelled me into education as an art integrationist. How can I help each person find a context in which they shine brilliantly?"

Ambient Moons No. 1

Kemlyn Tan Bappe

Silk dyes & resist on rice paper

Photography by R.J. Haffner-Bos, 2009

Kemlyn Tan Bappe is an artist, arts-integrationist and teacher of exceptional students living in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a native of Singapore and draws inspiration from her Peranakan heritage and the natural world. Tan Bappe is the recipient of the 2009-10 VSA National Teaching Artist Fellowship and has presented at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Her artwork can be found in collections internationally.

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