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HeartShare and NYU Polytechnic Challenge Social Constructs About Disabilities

April 11, 2015

In The Media

HeartShare Human Services of New York and NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering have teamed up to create a learning environment that challenges social constructs about disabilities.

Adults diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities from HeartShare’s Day Habilitation Programs have had the opportunity, some for the first time, to learn and grow in the higher education setting. Spearheaded by NYU Polytechnic instructor Allan Goldstein, HeartShare program participants engaged in photo workshops last year and are enrolled in a Disabilities Studies course this semester.

Both educational experiences–the workshops and the class–are focused on utilizing artistic expression to dissolve social barriers between people with and without disabilities, as well as to promote self-advocacy and empower those with disabilities to tell their story. The workshops and Disabilities Studies course, to be extended to the Fall 2015 semester, actively promote inclusion through a dynamic mix of students–HeartShare program participants and budding NYU engineers.

Several pieces from HeartShare’s annual art show, ArtShare for HeartShare, were displayed at NYU Polytechnic building lobby at 2 MetroTech Center last year, and served as the starting point of this ongoing collaboration between HeartShare and the university, which was featured in New York University’s inaugural Arts Digest (Spring 2015):

Art Empowerment

“The NYU students learn about what it’s like to live with a disability, and those from HeartShare become empowered by the chance to show what they can do–when so often the focus is on what they can’t do.”

Allan Goldstein–an instructor in the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society (TCS)–believes that all of us have the ability to create art, if only we are presented with the opportunity. It’s a sentiment that will be on full display at this year’s ArtShare for HeartShare exhibit, which features work by artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Now in its second year, the exhibit is a joint project with the nonprofit HeartShare Human Services of New York. Goldstein, who teaches a disabilities studies course, has also organized photography workshops that bring together HeartShare clients and Engineering students, which he says benefit everyone involved. “The NYU students learn about what it’s like to live with a disability,” he explains. “And those from HeartShare become empowered by the chance to show what they can do–when so often the focus is on what they can’t do.”

This spring, thanks in part to a service learning grant from NYU, 20 consultants from HeartShare and United Cerebral Palsy will be working with TCS students to create digital stories, which Goldstein intends to display at NYU’s Ability Lab during the annual Digital Media showcase in Brooklyn.
“Last year ArtShare for HeartShare brought together the university, a wonderful social-services agency, and the entire Downtown Brooklyn community in an incredible way,” Goldstein says. “Illustrating that perfectly is the fact that an attendee who just happened to be walking through the lobby of 2 MetroTech was so moved by one of the paintings that she asked to purchase it. Here was someone with no connection whatsoever to the School of Engineering or to HeartShare who was touched in a meaningful way by our efforts.”  – Mari Rich