The Opportunity Center works to give clients the opportunity to express themselves through art and music.
The center is a day-to-day training program that provides assistance to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to help them live as independently as possible in the community.
As the center works to set up a care plan with clients and help them achieve personal goals, according to CEO Sally Phillips, it also provides opportunities for clients to gain meaningful experiences, some of which are set in the arts and music.
Art and music, she said, are important to everyone and touch the lives of all people, and even more so those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, because they are a means of expression, which is especially important for those who may be deaf or nonverbal.
“If you have someone who doesn’t communicate verbally, they might be able to communicate a lot by drawing or painting, so that would give them a way to express their feelings, to express themselves and who they are,” she said. “We just want to give them experience so that when you ask someone what they want to do in the next two years, five years or 10 years, they have something to draw from.”
The center, she said, has several clients who are artistically minded and one who plays guitar regularly. The artworks of his clients are on display throughout the center.
Phillips said the center recently worked with clients to create self-portraits, which provided insight into how many clients see themselves.
“Sometimes those things open their eyes very much to how they see themselves in that self-portrait.” she said.
The center, she said, regularly provides clients with opportunities to indulge in art projects. He invites local musicians to show their talents and show clients a new skill, which not only gives them the opportunity for new hobbies, but also to interact with the community.
She said a steel drum band came to the center from Owensboro High School to play for clients and give them a chance to drum.
“We have a person who is deaf and I was wondering if he would just watch them, but he came close to them, and when I talked to him, he said he could feel the music,” she said. “When some of the clients came up and played steel drums, he wanted to do it, even though he couldn’t hear them, he wanted to be close and feel that vibration.”
It is important, Phillips said, to provide equal opportunities for self-expression and participation in the arts to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as everyone else.
Although historically, the participation of these individuals in the arts has not been readily available, she said, this has begun to change.
“The media is opening that door a little more than before,” she said. “I think younger children who are involved in the school system are likely to have a better chance than many of our older generation clients … to have that experience, so we have to make up for it.”
Not only has the center worked to provide more artistic opportunities for clients, Phillips said, but it has also worked to open many other doors, including volunteering where clients regularly go out into the community to do community service projects.
Some of those projects, she said, are collaborating with the senior center and the Botanical Garden.
The center, she said, encourages community members who have talents they would like to share, or volunteer projects, to reach out and share with clients.
“Many of our clients have never had this before, so the more we can open up to people in the community, the better for them,” she said. “Everyone wants to have a purpose; everyone wants to have talent. We try to give people a part of it that they may not have been able to get before. ”
Christie Netherton, [email protected], 270-691-7360