Elizabeth Connolly, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and Elizabeth M. Shea, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities, visited Matheny on June 30 to learn more about our Arts Access Program, which enables individuals with disabilities to fully express themselves in the creative arts.
During the visit, Eileen Murray, director of the Arts Access Program, explained how artists with disabilities are assisted by professional artists, who act as their facilitators. The facilitators offer the artists a variety of choices, but, Murray emphasized, “they must remain neutral, with no preconceptions.” Facilitators, she added, are required to go through “a stringent training process.” The process, she said, requires a great deal of patience, and “choice is at the heart of the program. Every facilitator,” she said, “needs to be a professional artist, but not every professional artist can be a facilitator.”
Shea wondered if the philosophy of the Arts Access facilitation process “could be translated to choices about other things, food choices, for example.” Murray explained that, “the process is for art, but it could be used for anything.” Connolly and Shea also toured Matheny’s hospital and school, after which Connolly concluded that, “This is a happy place.”