Where art starts for all

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter

At about half past noon on Mondays, Jason Stuvee, a 33-year-old adult with Down Syndrome, rings the doorbell at CSS (Community Support Services) Academy, 3732 Grand Boulevard, in Brookfield.

Routinely, Stuvee is the first student of the day to sign in for his weekly all abilities art class, says Cassandra Colucy, the community art program manager.  Simultaneously, and on cue, she says she begins gathering the materials, while Stuvee settles into the blue chair facing the door getting into his art groove.

"I like red, green, orange, yellow, black, and that's it," he says, with prompts from Colucy, a CSS staff member who is also a licensed art therapist.  "I use crayons. I paint.  I made a ball [piñata].  I like to work with clay," he says.  "I like doing art.  It makes me happy."

Hanging on the wall on display with other paintings is his collaborative art masterpiece,  "The USS Enterprise," he says.  It is named after his favorite space-themed television show.

It is a recurring theme in his art, as are "kitty cats," he slowly says.

Over the last two years or so, Stuvee says he has also crafted a pinch pot he plans to use as a candy dish, completed the glazing of a colorful ceramic cat bowl and "right now Jason is working on an art journal," says his teacher.   "He has created his own book. It is about his pet cat," she says.

"Meow," Jason purred, in response to what his journal was all about.   

His art teacher says that it was the melting crayons project that demonstrated how "Jason is finding his own passion in art, and then finding meaning in that.

 "That project took a lot of patience, because Jason had to hold the blow dryer and wait for the crayon to melt, then move the canvas around the melted wax.  And, Jason was able to do that," said Colucy. 

Launched in August 2013 by Community Support Services, the CSS Academy is, "a progressive learning environment for people of all abilities," says CSS Academy Director Necole Mills.  It is also where classes, workshops and special field trips are offered to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, but welcomes in their families, caregivers and residents in the community who are interested in learning something new in an inclusive community-based space.  Led by CSS staffers, classes range from art, cooking and money management, to Zumba fitness for all, she said, adding that scholarships are available.

 "During the money management class here, I stayed in and helped Jason, because he needed my assistance.  But with the art, he told me to go away,"
joked Bob Stuvee, 65, and Jason's dad.  "He enjoys coming here, and for me, that is the biggest thing."

Meanwhile, Jason is comfortably in his element.

"When he started, it was very hard to get him to say his name, or even communicate with us," Colucy said.  "Now, sometimes in class, he will openly and freely begin to sing [the theme song from Happy Days].  So, he is using art to express himself, too, and in how he interacts with his peers.  Right now, he is dancing in his chair, next to Amy.  He loves to make the other artists in the room laugh, because he has really come out of his shell."

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