A Guide to Career Development Opportunities
for Visual and Performing Artists with Disabilities
Gaining Experience and Education
The focus areas of this webinar are geared to gaining
experience and education to build your resume and
grow your vision as an artist.
Again, you’ll hear from artists, beginning with a junior
high student who has already built an incredibly
impressive resume of exhibitions, commissions, public
speaking, and membership in organizations of
professional artists. Whatever your age, his story
serves to inspire and offers a step-by-step outline of
how to move forward in your pursuit of a career in the
Jalyn Weston is a 13-year-old artist from
Sweetwater, Tennessee who began drawing as a
toddler at the same time he began to receive
services for a developmental delay. His innate
interest in drawing was used to advance the
development of his language and social skills. At
the age of four, Jalyn was diagnosed with an
Autism Spectrum Disorder. At six, he began to
exhibit his drawings and paintings. By age nine, he
began to speak publicly to large groups about
the positive impact of the visual arts on the lives of
people with disabilities.
As of 2014, his work has been exhibited in more
than 70 group and solo exhibits. 6
Jalyn’s favorite subjects are dinosaurs
and he plans to become a
paleontologist or paleoartist
someday. This vision supports him
academically while giving purpose to
his artistic development. Currently in
the 7th grade, he has earned a
number of awards for art as well as for
his academic achievements over the
past several years. He has received
numerous commissions from
education groups, veterans groups,
autism groups, theatre groups, and
individuals. He also has donated work
to support civic groups, community
groups, and disability groups. 7
When Jalyn attended the VSA
International Festival at age seven, he
began to understand the significance
of his special ability and the power
that ability had to increase his
perceived value in the community.
Since he was in the first grade, he has
been a member of several local and
regional professional arts
organizations whose members
recognize him as a professional artist
and support and encourage his
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY ARTISTIC
Jalyn: The Jurassic Park movies
were a big influence because I
liked to draw dinosaurs. That
interest led me to learn more
about dinosaurs and that
knowledge helped me draw
dinosaurs more accurately.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Jalyn: My art is primarily inspired
by nature, but I also turn to
science fiction movies for
inspiration, especially eighties
movies. Surprisingly, there is a lot
of overlap between the natural
world and science fiction!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR
OTHER ARTISTS PURSUING CAREER
Jalyn: Follow what you love and
go from there when you make
art. Use what drives and interests
Pamela Weston, Jalyn’s grandmother, has played a
leading role in his artistic pursuits
When she realized his talent - and saw the direct link
between his artistic expression and the development
of his language and social skills - Pamela Weston
actively helped him to pursue learning, networking,
and exhibition opportunities.
“Jalyn loves dinosaur and shark movies, both documentaries
and those created for pure entertainment. That interest led
him to learn everything about dinosaurs, from their
evolutionary history to their relatives who still roam the planet
today. That knowledge, and the confidence he’s gained
through his art experiences, has helped him connect with
researchers who serve as paleontology consultants for movies
and special effects and prop designers, as well as classrooms
of local elementary school grade students who just wanted
to learn to draw dinosaurs,” said Pam emphasizing how
Jalyn’s two areas of interest - dinosaurs and art - combined to
create a foundation for a career in the arts.
“I would add that those interested in the arts
should pursue every avenue of showing,
publishing, and sharing their work,” Pam advises
others pursuing careers in the arts. “Keep records
of what pieces were shown where and when.
Make images of works. Utilize social media for
self-promotion. Connect with arts groups and
artists to network, grow as a professional. Be
inspired. Take the time and energy to invest in
your vision. Be prepared to move forward - in
small increments at some times and explosive
surges at other times. Just keep working, learning,
growing, connecting, and moving forward.”
Jalyn’s unfolding story as an artist begins this
section of the webinar because it illustrates a
number of specific, practical ways to gain
experience and build your résumé as an artist.
TEN STEPS TO TAKE TO GAIN
EXPERIENCE AND BUILD
As an artist, you are uniquely able to creatively “think out of
the box.” What are ways that you can connect with people
and organizations? How can you gain support for your goals
at the same time you contribute to the quality of life in your
community? Here’s some specific, practical advice that will
hopefully inspire you to consider a multitude of possibilities for
“Get your art out there,” as artist Estelle Condra advised in an
Be creative in exploring opportunities to gain experiences
and keep a detailed list of what you do.
Take classes in your medium with individuals, organizations,
and educational institutions. Enroll in such classes as art
history or commercial art.
Explore opportunities at local colleges, arts organizations,
parks and recreation centers. Pursue a degree. Survey all of
the educational resources available to you in your areas.
Join local and state arts groups, along with organizations
advocating for people with disabilities. As an artist, you are
uniquely able to “think out of the box.”
What are ways that you can connect with people, gain
support for your goals, and contribute to the quality of life in
Volunteer and donate.
To help build your resume and gain experience, share your
art with a senior citizen center, library, nursing home, schools,
day care centers, churches, or other worthy organizations.
Volunteer to teach a class or put on a performance.
Donate works of visual art.
Be open to commissions.
As you develop contacts and connections, let it be known
that you’d be happy to discuss the potential to create works
of art that meet the particular needs of an individual or an
Blend your passions.
Pursue your ability as an artist in connection with your special
interests and areas of expertise - nature, history, cooking,
sports, whatever they might be.
The possibilities are endless.
Jalyn Weston took the initiative to connect with
paleontologists who serve as consultants for movies, special
effects, and property design.
What opportunities might be a good match for your special
areas of interest?
Volunteer to address groups - civic clubs, church fellowships,
disability advocacy organizations and more.
In addition to recording the details of all of your credits,
classes and memberships, create a resume and store digital
images of your work and yourself.
If you are applying for a job, preparing for a speaking
engagement, looking forward to an opening, or getting
some publicity with local media, you’ll have helpful resources
Apply for awards at the local, state and national level.
Work with others who might nominate you for special honors.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO
TO GAIN EXPERIENCE AND
BUILD YOUR RESUME?
APPLY FOR GRANTS
The website of the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) is your
first stop. If you have not yet investigated grant opportunities
here, don’t delay. The TAC is committed to serving artists with
disabilities. Read the guidelines and apply for funding for
special projects, perhaps in conjunction with a local arts or
Don’t hesitate to contact William Coleman, CDE, Director of
Arts Access at the TAC at 615-532-9797 or
Grants may also be available from many other sources on
the local, state, and national level. Search the web for
opportunities. Grant-writing in itself is an art form! Seek
advice from professionals and learn more from internet
resources. Most granting organizations are happy to talk with
you to answer questions or review your idea for a proposal
before you submit an application.
VOLUNTEER, INTERN AND
You are a great match for a local arts organization or artist.
Volunteer to help with special projects or ongoing needs.
Explore the potential for an internship or apprenticeship.
These three different possibilities could help you to gain
experience, build your resume, and explore a variety of
opportunities for yourself.
While individual training and studies with artists and arts
educators are important, seriously pursue a degree. To
guarantee your access to an education, colleges offer
specialized services for people with disabilities. Explore the
possibilities for yourself.
This webinar is designed to summarize opportunities and
resources as you pursue career development opportunities.
Respond to the survey at the end of all five webinars and
you’ll receive a certificate of completion—one more thing to
add to your resume!
To close, you’ll hear from teachers and directors of
organizations who provide creative opportunities for artists.
Consider tapping into their programs or looking for similar
prospects in your community which are suited to you.
ARTS FOR AUTISM
Anne Winsauer, founder and teacher
Anne Winsauer is an artist and an
educator who works with children
and young adults with autism. She
received her degree in
Communication Design at the
University of Tennessee, and went
on to pursue a degree in
Educational Technology at Johnson
After many years as a graphic designer,
Anne blended her two areas of study
and began teaching children and
young adults to learn and express
themselves through visual art and design
in a variety of media. In 2008, she
founded Art for Autism Tennessee and
began developing a unique art
curriculum for students on the autism
spectrum, which focuses on developing
an individual student’s strengths while
building life skills.
After six years of working with groups of students
as well as one-on-one, her work now includes
tutoring in academic subjects, using art and
visuals to communicate concepts. Her students’
individual interests and challenges are often
depicted in their artwork. Stop-motion animated
short films are a favorite of her students, and she
recently conducted a workshop teaching the
basic principles of architecture. A native
Knoxvillian, Anne and her Chicago-born
husband, John, enjoy living in the foothills of the
Smokies where they benefit from their small
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR
PEOPLE PURSUING A CAREER IN
Anne: Pursue lots of different
presentations of your art. Take valid work
when it is offered to you, and learn from
the experience. Try new things, growing in
your art as you go. Trust yourself to be
able to handle new opportunities.
WHO AND WHAT WERE YOUR
EARLY ARTISTIC INFLUENCES?
Anne: I was interested in art at
a very young age. Really,
Michelangelo was an early
influence. Use of dark and light
in Rembrandt’s paintings was
fascinating to me as well.
However, I was all about horses
at that age, so I would draw
horses that looked like a statue
by Michelangelo, or high-
contrast horses like Rembrandt
might have drawn them.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Anne: Character inspires me, that is, strength, growth,
change, and overcoming obstacles. Those kinds of life
experiences have been and always will be motivational for
me. Also, nature is inspirational. Artist/illustrator Jerry Pinkney’s
fabulous depictions of natural settings and people are some
of my favorite, inspiring images.
The Healing Arts Project, Inc.
HAPI provides an avenue for persons in mental health and
addiction recovery to express their creativity through a wide
range of artistic endeavors to raise awareness in the
community and combat stigma about these disorders, thus
promoting understanding, acceptance and success. Jane
Baxter talks about the organization which has programs in 14
locations in Middle Tennessee.
HOW CAN PEOPLE TAP INTO
Jane: HAPI partners with mental health and addiction peer
support centers operated by Behavioral Health Agencies in
Middle Tennessee for delivery of the art classes. Transportation is
provided by the centers where art classes are held. Persons in
recovery have low income and limited ability to get around on
their own, especially in rural counties. We provide art classes in 14
locations in Middle Tennessee including Clarksville, Dickson,
Murfreesboro, Columbia, McMinnville, Tullahoma, Shelbyville, and
Nashville. Persons who want to be in the art program contact
their behavioral health peer support center serving these areas.
We will put a list of contact information on the website. 47
The art classes provide a gathering of peers to enjoy working
together in a social setting where everyone is important. They
gain self-confidence by seeing they can create art that
others think is beautiful and gives them pleasure to create.
Indian Princess by
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PLACES
WHERE WORK BY YOUR ARTISTS
HAS BEEN ON EXHIBIT?
Jane: We’ve had exhibits in Davidson County at
Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Tennessee Art
League, Metro Courthouse 4th Floor Gallery,
Downtown Presbyterian Church, the Edgehill,
Hermitage, Green Hills and Looby Libraries,
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and Legislative
Plaza. We’ve also exhibited at the Spring Hill
Library, the Linebaugh Library in Murfreesboro,
the public library and Train Depot in Clarksville,
the Franklin County Library in Winchester, the
Artisan Depot in Cowan, and St. Mary
Magdalene Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.
49Dusk in the Swiss Alps by Barbara Shirley
Why is it so important to HAPI, as an
organization, and these artists, to be
a part of public exhibits?
Jane: HAPI takes art to community locations so
that the public can see the positive, colorful
artworks and read the artist's statement about their
art. This raises awareness that persons with mental
illness and addictions have great talent and
contribute to the life of the community. The
exhibits are located in places where the artists in
towns across Middle Tennessee can go see their
work in public and receive positive feedback and
self-respect about the pleasure people receive in
seeing their art.
Persons who have symptoms of these illnesses
often resist going for treatment because of public
stigma that they are "different" if they receive
mental health care. The staging of the art exhibits
raises awareness that treatment works and a full
life in the community is possible. 51
Flower Burst by Laura Hudson
WHO PAYS FOR THE ART CLASSES,
MATERIALS AND EXHIBITS?
Jane: HAPI is a nonprofit agency that has
several funding partners. We are fortunate
to have generous grants from the
Tennessee Arts Commission, The Metro
Nashville Arts Commission, United
Healthcare Community Plan, The Memorial
Foundation, The Community Foundation of
Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Mental
Health Consumers Association, Tennessee
Department of Mental Health and
Substance Abuse Services, and supporters
of the Phoenix Art Gala.
Realistic Abstract by John L. Butts, Jr.
The Movement Connection
Danielle Clements, Artistic Director
Danielle Clements is the founder of and
Artistic Director for the Movement
Connection for people with cognitive
disabilities, who has seen her dancers
grow in leaps and bounds since they
began and continue to amaze her every
WHY IS PARTICIPATION IN THE
ARTS IMPORTANT TO YOUNG
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES?
Danielle: The arts are so
important to young
people with disabilities
because they allow the
individual to express
themselves in a new way.
Most arts allow individuals
to work together for a
WHAT DOORS ARE OPENED
THROUGH OPPORTUNITIES, LIKE
JOINING YOUR GROUP?
Danielle: Opportunities opened are the confidence gained
through performance, the relationships built through
rehearsals and the physical well-being of participating in
I would tell the young person to do what they love. If you
have a passion for it, the career will never be work.
REALIZING YOUR DREAMS
More than any other people on earth, artists turn to
inspiration and imagination to achieve their goals. Apply
the stories and suggestions in this webinar to your own
situation - who you are, where you are, what you are, and
wherever you want to go. VSA Tennessee and the
Tennessee Arts Commission know and trust that you have the
imagination to tap into the opportunities around you.
Explore the career development opportunities available to
you. Realize your dreams in your unique way.
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