youngster in the class with his 9-year-old brother. Now, Salgeuro says, “the class is his pas sion.” J.J.’s focus has sharpened and his motor skills have improved, she notes. In fact, she believes his progress as a result of the class has been more pronounced than anything else she’s tried. The school is also addressing the specialneeds population in other ways. It partnered with Orange County’s Access Charter School to create a “Social Story” video and downloadable book, both available by visiting drphillipscenter.org. The video and the book were designed to help children on the autism spectrum adjust to the experience of attending a live performance at the arts center. In January, a “sensory-friendly” show, Spencers: Theatre of Illusion was presented at the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. The show was followed by the Hocus Focus workshop, the goal of which was to teach simple tricks to help youngsters with special needs develop fine and motor skills. The video, the book and the show were funded in part by a grant from South Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs along with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation. In August, the partnership continues with a Theater Week summer camp for children, parents and teachers involved in OCA (Opportunity, Community, Ability), a local non-profit volunteer group dedicated to engaging children and adults with special needs. A highlight of the weeklong camp will be presentation of a play, The Wizard of OCA, at the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. The playwright, 20-year-old Ivan Negron, has autism. So does the lead vocalist, Laura Hernandez, also 20. And the narrator? That would be Henry Bass, an Access Charter School student and OCA participant who now volunteers at the arts center. His mother, Alice Ramadan, is the arts center’s creative manager and copywriter. Ramadan is proud of the role her employer is playing in a project that may have such far-reaching implications. But she’s affected most deeply as a parent — one whose pediatrician told her “good luck with that” when Henry was diagnosed with autism. “All these years, we’ve struggled to find answers, to make people understand,” Ramadan says. “I can’t tell you how amazing, how life-changing it is, to suddenly hear someone say: ‘We are here. We can help.’” 20
artsLife | SUMMER 2015
Margery Pabst-Steinmetz, philanthropist and member of the Arts & Wellness Advisory Council.
THE MIND, THE BODY AND THE IMAGINATION The Dr. Phillips Center School of Arts, now the Dr. Phillips Center Florida Hospital School of Arts & Wellness, will become a leadingedge center for the study of the arts and its relationship to the mind, the body and the imagination. The partnership will allow researchers, clinicians and others to learn how the arts can be used to improve physical, mental and emotional health. To formalize the program, an Arts & Wellness Advisory Council consisting of five national and community leaders will be formed. Members will include Kathy Ramsberger, CEO and president of the Dr. Phillips Center; Margery Pabst-Steinmetz, a local philanthropist who’s also president-elect of the National Center for Creative Aging; a healthcare clinical specialist with arts and wellness expertise appointed by Florida Hospital; and a nationally recognized arts educator, administrator or philanthropist selected jointly by Florida Hospital and the Dr. Phillips Center. Over the course of a year, the council will develop a strategic plan that defines programming for the school’s arts and wellness initiatives. The school's primary goals are to explore the ways in which expressive, performing arts further health, well-being and quality of care for individuals, families and caregivers. A particular focus will be on those with autism and dementia (including Alzheimer’s) as well as other mental and physical disorders, including trauma. For more information, visit drphillipscenter.org.