Saturday, January 19, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 12th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 19

The Ian M Hassett Foundation brings a new art program to people with disabilities at VTC


The artwork that adorns the walls at the Valley Art Gallery in Orcutt is all unique and beautiful, but one nook in particular stands out from the rest. Vibrant and colorful, filled with smiling faces and abstract imagery, the work is distinct for not just what it depicts, but for who made it.

The pieces were all crafted by students in a new series of art classes at VTC Enterprises in Santa Maria, which were spearheaded by the Ian M Hassett Foundation. Work produced in the program, which was featured at the Valley Art Gallery at a reception in June, was produced during nine monthly classes that took place starting in October.

Artists taking part in VTC Enterprises’ new art program are featured in an exhibit at the Valley Art Gallery, which runs through the end of July. According to program facilitators, the artists’ work may also be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Government Center.

The Hassett Foundation’s finance director, Stefanie Hassett, whose oldest son is a client at VTC, said the organization’s founders had always wanted to find a way to bring more art to the disabled community.

“The idea is not for this to be a craft class, but an actual art class,” she explained. “We cover watercolor, acrylics. We even made a musical instrument. The idea is to teach them art and how to express themselves and their personality through art.”

Rebecca Zook was one of the participants in the inaugural program. Zook said she likes to work with different colors like blue and purple and likes to paint objects such as clouds, butterflies, trees, and different kinds of animals.

“I like to do painting,” Zook said. “It makes me feel good to do things with my hand.”

Tori Giambalvo is another student in the program. She said she had taken art classes before and enjoyed doing things like working on her self-portrait and using colors like red.

One of the works Wilma Walker—a participant in VTC Enterprises art classes—created was a rain stick musical instrument. Participants such as Walker took nine monthly classes, each one focused on a different medium.

Each VTC class explored a different type of medium, including watercolor and acrylic. Giambalvo said she enjoyed working with all of them, even though some were more challenging at first.

“The first time I used [pastels] it was tricky,” she explained. “I never used chalk like that before.”

But the classes are about more than just producing visual works of art. There is no wrong way to do art, and for marginalized people who may have been forced to feel inadequate about their skills and abilities, the discipline can help create a pathway to healthy self-esteem. The creative process, from making choices about colors or media to learning new techniques, helps students come out of their shell and let go of their insecurities and inhibitions.

Hassett said one student in the class initially wouldn’t go beyond using the same brown color as the class began. She said that while it may not sound like a lot, for a student to go from a particular comfort zone to really expanding their color palette is a significant achievement.

Rebecca Zook’s self-portrait sold for $25 during VTC Enterprises’ exhibit at the Valley Art Gallery. The Ian M Hassett Foundation spearheaded the art program, which provided nine monthly classes from October to May.

“By the time the program was done, she was painting with oranges and yellows and greens,” Hassett said. “The color choices she was choosing to put together were really sophisticated. She was showing a really good eye for color. So that kind of growth for the students is what we’re aiming for.”

The VTC exhibit includes a captivating series of self-portraits, radiant and graphic in the spirit of vintage comic book images. Each piece is ripe with color and downright joyful expressionism.

One of the self-portraits Zook created sold for $25. Making the art available for sale and letting the students experience what it’s like to be a working artist was another teaching opportunity, Hassett said.

“We wanted to give the artists a real-world experience,” she said. “That includes showing your art. We wanted to culminate the class in a real-life art show.”

The art show was a resounding success, resulting in one of the most attended receptions in Valley Art Gallery history. Hassett said there is a possibility the show will move to the Betteravia Government Center after July. She said plans for next year’s classes include some more technical challenges as well as looking at more art shows.

Inclusive art
VTC Enterprises and the Ian M Hassett Foundation student art show runs through July at the Valley Art Gallery, 1108 E. Clark Ave., suite 170, Orcutt. More info: 937-2278.

As for the future, Zook is excited to participate in more classes. Zook, who plans to give some of her artwork to her sister and VTC Enterprises, said she hopes the public will come see the work they’ve done.

“It’s good and we’d like you to come see the art,” Zook said. “It’s wonderful to see the arts.”

Rebecca Rose’s favorite color is turquoise. Contact her at

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