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Artfest offers Delawareans with disabilities opportunity for creative expression

UD Center for Disabilities Studies
Shayla Bartoli and Brigitte Hancharick and last year's Artfest

For people with disabilities who lack fine motor skills, the simple act of drawing or painting can be a challenge.


Since the arts fulfill the basic human need for creative self-expression, advocates for inclusion stress that access should be available to all.


That’s the goal behind "Artfest," an annual event in the First State for people with disabilities.


Saturday’s day-long occasion will team individuals with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities with professional artists and University of Delaware volunteers.

The event's director Lisa Bartoli, says there’s a range of ways people with disabilities can express themselves through art.


“There are all kinds of adaptive tools that are on the market or we create our own," she says. "It can be as easy as taking a styrofoam ball and putting it on the end of a paintbrush just to make it easier to hold.”


Participants and UD volunteers will create a wide array of art from mask making to sculpture, and individuals in wheelchairs can spin paint on a giant canvas.

Credit UD Center for Disabilities Studies
Sean Guinivan, Artfest Director Lisa Bartoli and UD volunteer Anthony Monaco at 2015 Artfest

Photos of the art projects will be used by UD’s Center for Disability Studies in their annual report and yearly calendar.  


And while many inclusive community projects cater to school age children, Artfest is open to all people with disabilities.


“Last year I think we had a woman who was 82 and she had just as much fun as the younger participants, says Bartoli.  "I’m always amazed at how the event reaches everyone.”


Bartoli says that Artfest fosters opportunities for social inclusion and that the student volunteers get as much out of the event as the participants.


"Not too sound too corny but Artfest really is magical," she notes. "When people come together, they make masterpieces, not only in art but in life."

This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.