“Making Disability a Possibility,” says the motto of local non-profit organization Community Inclusion and Development Alliance (CIDA) based in Bayside, New York. On September 21, 2019, The School of Education hosted CIDA’s fourth annual Very Special Art Festival at the D’Angelo Center. The event coincided with the University’s Service Day, an annual kickoff to the Founder’s Week celebration of our Vincentian heritage.
The aim of the annual festival is to foster inclusion opportunities for children and young adults with disabilities through creative art activities, and to promote diversity and acceptance within the Queens community. Students and their families from the local community gathered for a joyful celebration of the artistic talents and individuality of every person. The day included games, arts and crafts, musical performances, a dance competition, and an award ceremony.
A bubble ceremony was held on the steps of the D’Angelo Center during which Young Seh Bae, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Department of Education Specialties and Executive Director of CIDA offered an inspiring message of hope and unity as participants joined hands forming concentric circles. CIDA, a grassroots non-profit organization, was founded by Korean-American parents who envision self-determination and equal opportunities for their children with disabilities. Additionally, it is a Parent Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
David Bell, Ed.D., Dean joined Special Education faculty members Ishita Khemka, Ph.D., Associate Professor; and assistant professors Rebecca Louick, Ph.D., Seung Eun (Sunny) McDevitt, Ph.D., and Maria Mello, Ph.D., at the event. Volunteers included St. John’s University undergraduate and graduate students, and youth members of The Korean Church of Queens. They assisted by welcoming families and directing them to the appropriate locations, aided students in selecting the media for their art projects, provided encouragement to the young artists, and offered face painting to smiling young children. The church’s T-Bell Choir delighted participants with a performance under the direction of conductor Sun Young Lee.
The student-created artwork was plentiful: still life figures of a slice of watermelon or a beautiful pottery jug; sketches of animals or landscape; painted American flags and church buildings and houses; a large cross on oak tag in mosaic-style; and one student proudly held up a drawing of diverse human figures talking with each other with their backs turned to the viewer. “Equity,” it read across the top in large blue lettering, and underneath, “Make Disability a Possibility.”