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Creating Art from Disability
Chana Goldstock lives in Jerusalem with her six children, two of whom have Down syndrome. Suri is one of them. Focused, agreeable, methodical and a proficient embroiderer, the 26-year-old is constantly sewing, drawing and painting, according to her mom.
Chana watched her daughter grow as an artist. She was spending hours each day embroidering and decided that Suri needed to get involved in some type of art program where she could cultivate and foster her love of art in an environment where someone would be able to guide her. So, Chana found the Friendship Circle.
With branches all over the world, the Friendship Circle was founded in Jerusalem in 2008 by Chanie Canterman, who saw a need for an organization to help immigrants from English-speaking countries, with children or family members with special needs, find a community. Similar to big brother or big sister programs, Friendship Circle pairs mostly teenage volunteers with someone with special needs, facilitating friendships.
“Friendship Circle brings friendship to those who need it most: children who look and feel different,” Canterman, who heads the Israeli branch of Friendship Circle, told The Media Line. “It’s filling in the circle that is missing with children with needs who are not always treated with love.”
“These children are lonely because they don’t really have friends,” Canterman added.
The organization offers a number of programs and activities to facilitate social inclusion, especially surrounding the Jewish holidays. Last year it unveiled a pilot program called “The Art of Friendship.”
Pairing seven Jerusalem-based artists, who volunteered, with 50 special-needs children, the program sought to create a space for children and young adults who have difficulties expressing themselves orally. Eventually, the students’ creations are auctioned off to raise money for Friendship Circle.
“Art has the power to transcend verbal and outer obstacles,” Canterman asserted.
Suri Goldstock, whose condition can cause physical and mental developmental delays, was paired with artist Andi Arnovitz, who told The Media Line “I had never worked with somebody with special needs, I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, she said, “I really fell in love with Suri.”
Once a week for about five months, Goldstock traveled, sometimes even alone, which is a feat in itself for someone with Down syndrome, to Arnovitz’s studio in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. Never late and always with a smile on her face, Goldstock was open to trying anything Arnovitz suggested.
It was difficult, however, for Arnovitz to find an appropriate medium that would enable Goldstock to do the bulk of the work. She eventually landed on collaging.
Arnovitz described the system in a series of steps, stating that the finished pieces were about 70 percent Goldstock’s and 30 percent hers. “I devised a system of stencils, where she could trace and draw freely and where we could cut out what she had done and we could create these collages,” she said.
Goldstock painted on sheets of paper and then she and Arnovitz would place the stencils on the art and cut them out. Then they created scenes with the cutouts. Goldstock went with Arnovitz to pick out frames for her eight works of art prior to the auction in November.
Stencil cut-outs of palm trees and leaves were painted in vivid colors and patterns and pasted onto black backgrounds with gold and black frames.
“She had incredible patience and focus, which is not a given for kids with special needs,” Arnovitz said. “She had a marvelous sense of color and she was so agreeable with a stick-to-it kind of attitude. I would definitely do this again.”
Chana has noticed a difference in her daughter, too.