ArtStream uses art and drama to teach essential communication and self-advocacy skills to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities-including autism. These skills are important for communicating around the dinner table, the classroom, the board table, and everywhere in between.
Through four areas of programming, ArtStream participants gain the confidence and skills necessary to be involved in their own life trajectory and shape their own future.
1. Inclusive Theatre Companies, now in their 11th season, are at the heart of ArtStream’s programming. Every year, more than 90 adults with IDD across six companies in the DC area – two each in Silver Spring, MD; Gaithersburg, MD; and Arlington, VA – work together with professional theatre artists, trained volunteer acting mentors, and a design team to select a theme, improvise dialogue, develop a script, memorize lines, rehearse choreography, and ultimately perform an original musical for more than 1,800 paying audience members over 6-8 performances.
2. Leadership Programs, including advocacy and public speaking workshops, “Social Clubs,” and acting-skills classes, use acting and role-play techniques to help participants with IDD identify their needs, strengths, and interests. Working collaboratively with their peers, more than 150 participants acquire vital problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, and communication skills while building empathy and lessening social anxiety.
3. Community Partnerships with schools and service providers reach more than 850 children, teens, and adults with IDD each year through visual arts, drama, music, puppetry, movement, and advocacy classes. Students in all of these programs use participation in the arts as a means to engage positively with others, practice interpersonal communication, and find success in mastery of new skills.
4. Arts in Healthcare currently has two programs in place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. “Allies in the Arts” bedside programming, now in its sixth year, uses therapeutic arts activities to aid in the psychological recovery of approximately 400 wounded Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam veterans on the Wounded Warriors Unit, as well as the 250 visiting family members and 200 nursing staff charged with their rehabilitation. “You Are a Work of Art,” now in its third year, uses similar arts-based activities to improve the coping skills and morale of more than 1,500 nursing personnel, technicians, and medics employed across the Walter Reed campus. ArtStream’s work at Walter Reed was highlighted by the “National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military” as a national model for arts in healthcare programming.
A 501(c)(3) founded in 2005, ArtStream operates throughout the Washington, DC region.