Yale Center for British Art and Chapel Haven host autism art education program

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Participants in the program created an environmentally inviting bird sanctuary at Chapel Haven.

The Yale Center for British Art and Chapel Haven, a residential school and independent living facility for people with cognitive and social disabilities, hosted a program on Feb. 20 to build a public sculpture and raise awareness of autism spectrum disorders.

Individuals on the autism spectrum created an environmentally inviting bird sanctuary and site-specific sculpture at Chapel Haven, located at 1040 Whalley Ave. in New Haven.

Under the guidance of Chicago sculptor Margot McMahon, participants of various ages and social and physical abilities had the opportunity to work with a variety of materials, to engage in social interaction, and to learn cooperative and communicative skills.

Children from the Yale Center for British Art’s Exploring Artism program and from the Autism Spectrum Disorder Fitness Center put together prefabricated wooden birdhouses and made nests from colorful telephone wires. Teenagers from Hillhouse and Wilbur Cross high schools constructed planters using waxed paper tubes, wire mesh, and paint. The participants filled the planters with potting soil and spring flower bulb and used them to form a maze around a large tree, where the students’ birdhouses and nests now hang. The students also twisted and turned lightweight aluminum piping to create a centerpiece to attract birds.

The program was pioneered by Linda Friedlaender, senior curator of education at Yale Center for British Art; Tina Menchetti, art director at Chapel Haven; and Students for Autism Awareness at Yale.

“This project encourages collaboration and teaches participants to respect one another while working on a shared goal,” said Friedlaender. “It is also a day for people to have fun, to socialize, and to feel accepted in a safe space.”

The art will remain on site at Chapel Haven through the spring. Chapel Haven residents will paint a mural of the day’s activities, which will be on display at Woolsey Hall at on World Autism Awareness Day, Saturday, April 2

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